Your Royal Highness, Excellences, Isol, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my great pleasure to welcome you all to this award ceremony. This is a great day because a great prize will be awarded to a great artist and our guest of honour.
It is a great day also because we have gathered here to shine a light on the art and excellence of drawing and writing children’s literature. And even more so, dare I say, on the capacity to express and portray ideas, existential questions and the complexity of life. Just like Astrid Lindgren did and now Isol does. This very special capacity to challenge young people’s minds and emotions. And to do so with both gravitas and a sense of humour.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child acknowledges that children have the right to development, the right to express their opinions and thoughts and the freedom to seek, receive and access information of all kinds, regardless of ability, orally or in writing or in the form of art or through other media of the child’s choice and requirements.
Children also have the right to participate in cultural life and the arts and the right to participate in communities activities especially arranged for them. This includes children’s involvement in libraries and community programs. And where there are libraries there are books – or should be.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is about the right for children. But let us now for a moment focus on our obligations: to put the interests, needs and requirements of the children first in all matters affecting them. This entails providing the child with an adequate standard of living. We have the obligation to make a difference. And we can all begin already a after this ceremony today:
The Swedish Government continues to strongly support this award politically as well as financially. This should be an inspiration to others. Then there are a couple of strategic efforts to be made and elaborated to pursue a realization of children’s rights: An abundance of pedagogues in nurserys and preschools with clear missions. The Swedish Government has now extended the project ‘creative schooling’ to the older children in preschool.
And also so important - for children and the young ones, well resourced and well equipped libraries, with librarians, not least in schools. That gives young people a proper start in life. It would also be the right instrument to promote democracy. Because with reading, words and pictures the rest will follow, since it is literacy that promotes thinking and analysis. – and imagination.
Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” if I may quote Albert Einstein.
The Swedish music critic Jan Gradvall writes about the Swedish artist, Joakim Thåström who maybe attracts young people to the library through the many literary references in his lyrics Bestow yourself with wings:
”Borrow Remarques’ The Arch Of Triumph, ask for The Unknown by Alexander Blok, and find your way to Bertil Malmberg’s ’Klaviatur’ to check the anthology’s last word”, encourages Gradvall.
To bestow yourself with wings, that’s what the library - digitally or on paper - is all about.
But in the end, is the lust for reading and the ability to be inspired by others who draw and write, that we need to cherish.
Reading and literature is at the very heart of the Swedish cultural policy. And although it is not a sufficient requirement, it is certainly a necessary requirement for creating a better world. Books with pictures and words - and the reading of them - are a tool for inspiration, for building confidence and self esteem, but also for instilling a sense of justice and empathy in the world and of course for providing laughter, moments of joy and even tears. And to understand that diversity is a source of pride and not tension.
Madicken used an umbrella to fly, Karlsson has his propeller. We others need more reliable wings.
Fantasy and fiction are the wings that should carry us through the real world.