Minister for Culture Speech

Your Royal Highness, Excellencies, Tamer Institute representatives, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Astrid Lindgren once said: “I want to write for readers who can do miracles. Children do miracles when they read. That’s why children need books.”

Awarding the world’s largest literature prize for children’s and young people’s literature to the Palestinian Tamer Institute is a way of honouring the miracle of reading, and the belief in literature and in children’s creativity. Together they provide keys to an open society.

A “Tamer” is a person who pollinates date palms by taking pollen from one palm tree to another. The word illustrates the vision of the Tamer Institute, in which knowledge and experience are transmitted from place to place, from person to person. When this involves literature and reading, the process of mediation is crucial. Reading aloud, booktalks, reading campaigns or your own writing – some sort of link is always needed between the books and their readers. This is particularly true when the readers are children.

Despite troubled and difficult conditions on the West Bank and in Gaza, the Tamer Institute has worked tirelessly to give thousands of children and young people the opportunity to experience literature. This has also given them a chance to develop their identity and self-esteem. The promotion of reading has been a pioneering enterprise that has now developed into a broad range of activities.

The work of the Tamer Institute can be said to stand for continuity in a chaotic world. No matter what the conditions on any particular day, literature is always there. A positive counterforce that gives hope. When Palestinian children’s education is interrupted, the Tamer Institute tries both to compensate for this loss and to contribute to another kind of learning, in which children can also develop their own ways to express themselves through art.

Having access to the word, to books and to stories should be a natural right. For all the world’s children. Ultimately, I think this is a matter of democracy. Meeting literature early in life helps us grow as human beings, it develops our imagination, creativity, empathy. And hope! Without the experience of reading, without the miracle of reading, humanity is impoverished.

That’s why the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award is needed. The prize strengthens the position of children’s and young people’s literature in the world. It is also intended to strengthen children’s rights at global level. The impact and visibility of the prize have grown from year to year. This is a hopeful sign for children’s literature and for children.

But methods and good examples are also needed. Methods and examples that encourage and inspire. The Tamer Institute has shown that its methods and examples really do work, even in very difficult circumstances. This is an exceptional achievement.

Thank you, and may your work continue – for the sake of all children!