Speech by Minister of Education, Research and Culture Leif Pagrotsky

Prize Giving Ceremony 25 May 2005 Skansen, Stockholm
Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award 2005

Your Royal Highness,
Your Excellencies,
Esteemed Award-Winners,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have come together here today through our shared love of literature, our shared love of reading.
We have also gathered here today to honour writing, and two very special storytellers, Ryôji Arai and Philip Pullman.

Children are like flowers. They are full of growing power and energy, full of aspiration and curiosity. But if they are to bloom to their full capacity, they also need attention, security and freedom. Sunshine and water are not enough. Children need love. And stimulation.
It's a question of culture. Culture as an essential element of life.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child asserts that all children have the right to culture.
And we adults are the ones who must take responsibility for ensuring that this right is fulfilled, all over the world, now and in the future.

What we read as a child may well be the most formative of all influences on our lives.
Just as we are starting out, starting to understand things/what we read//what life is about.
Just as we are beginning to find our own language.
We know that language is a key to our perception and understanding of the world.
And not least a tool to help us shape the world around us.
A key to democracy.

We know that reading is a key to knowledge – to knowledge that goes beyond what we can find in books. We know, for example, that children who do not read well also have problems when it comes to understanding numbers and how to solve problems.
We must all, therefore, defend and promote reading as a given part of children's lives, not least in school. It is vital for our future.

When the Swedish government set up this award in memory of Astrid Lindgren it was to serve as a clear reminder of how important literature and reading are for children.
Let us fill our children's lives with literature - the best fuel of all for their imaginations!

Minister of Education, Research and Culture Leif Pagrotsky
Minister of Education, Research and Culture Leif Pagrotsky