Mr President of the Board of Directors of the National Family Allowance Fund, Ladies and Gentlemen Presidents of the General Councils, Ladies and Gentlemen Presidents of the Family Allowance Funds,Mr Director of the National Fund for Family Allowances,Dear Regional Directors of Cultural Affairs Ladies and Gentlemen Directors of Family Allowance Funds,Dear Directors of Departmental Lending Libraries,Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is with great pleasure that I welcome you this evening to celebrate the launch of the second edition of an operation, First Pages, that you have all, according to different degrees of involvement, contributed to implement. We wish to make this evening a friendly and warm moment; however, this will not prevent me from reaffirming, with the solemnity that is required, my commitment to this project and the recognition of the institution I represent with respect to all the partners involved in its implementation. This is an exemplary partnership that I am sure we all applaud.
You know that the objective of this operation is to reach very upstream the children but also their entourage, ensuring that a book, at least, is present in each family, conducive to a moment of discovery shared by the child and his parents.
In fact, the experience of library and early childhood professionals, as well as representatives of associations working in this field, testify to the positive impact of access to books before 3 years, and the interest of establishing a relationship with the written and the book placed under the sign of pleasure and discovery. This operation is thus an opportunity to act to reduce inequalities in access to the mastery of the written word, the foundation of the exercise of citizenship and full social integration.
It is the pursuit of these objectives of cultural democratization that has prompted us to approach partners with whom the departments of the Ministry of Culture and Communication had until then only occasional contacts but only their objectives and their are complementary: I’m talking about family and early childhood actors.
I am thinking, first of all, of course, of the Caisse nationale des Allocations familiales, of which I thank the President, Mr DEROUSSEN, the Director, Mr DROUET and all the directors. My gratitude also goes to the services of the Cnaf, largely invested in their collaboration with the services of the ministry in the heavy task which falls to them, of national steering of the operation.
These thanks go to the network of CFAs and I welcome the commitment of their presidents, directors and services. Their involvement in this experiment did not flow from a source. I hope she will have convinced them, if it was still necessary, of the importance of cultural action as a lever for intervention with families.
While I note the importance to me of this emerging collaboration with the family allowance network, I do not forget, of course, our indispensable collaboration with local and regional authorities, and in particular, in this case, the general councils. These are a centrepiece of the first pages. For it is indeed a triumvirate that orchestrates the operation in the regions, bringing together the DRAC, the CAF and the departmental library of the General Council. I welcome the presence this evening of the Presidents of General Councils and their representatives who have agreed to take part in this operation. In terms of books and reading, the ministry’s proximity to the general councils is all the stronger since departmental lending libraries occupy a central position in the French landscape of public reading. And their intervention seems to us decisive in terms of cultural planning of the territory.
This is the whole meaning of politics that the Ministry of Culture and Communication intends to stimulate. The 14 proposals for the development of the reading presented last March, but also the rural area plan, are all formulations of the same proposal aimed at strengthening partnerships between the State, the local and regional authorities, and more generally, all the actors who can contribute to the renewal of cultural policies, in the sense of a better consideration of the reality and diversity of the territories, to overcome the obstacles encountered by the process of cultural democratization.
Among the strong axes of the 14 proposals for the development of reading are, on the one hand, a new mechanism of agreement with the communities aimed at strengthening and coordinating our actions towards the deficit territories and, on the other hand, the strengthening of the Ministry’s actions in favour of youth reading. The first pages are at the confluence of these two objectives and are therefore an integral part of this ambitious plan, which we have already initiated with our partners.
To this is added an additional satisfaction for this new edition, with the entry of four new departments into the system. Ain, Lot and Seine-et-Marne agreed to continue the experiment. They join La Réunion, the Puy-de-Dôme, the Pyrénées-Orientales and Savoie. We are particularly pleased about this.
The presence of Reunion Island, especially in this year of the French Overseas Territories, is a strong sign of the department’s openness to experimentation and its mobilization against the structural difficulties it is facing, of which its particularly worrying level of illiteracy. I recall that one adult in five at Reunion Island is struggling with writing skills.
I hope that the First Pages operation will meet with full success and succeed in taking root there. It is also a source of pride for us to have been able to initiate a system coordinated at the national level but fully open to local ownership. This amounts to promoting a model of public action with a flexible structure, requiring listening to the local singularities and allowing for the diversity of cultural aspirations and forms of expression.
Our ambition for this new year remains to bring together actors with diverse expectations and modes of operation around common objectives and to adapt the configuration of the operation according to local needs and resources, without sacrificing anything of its requirement.
For if there is a balance to be drawn from the first year of experimentation, it is primarily the quality of the actions initiated that I would like to note. Maintaining this new requirement on a large scale was not the least of the challenges. It was successfully achieved. In the three experimental departments, nearly 300 structures (libraries, early childhood institutions, social centres...) participated in the delivery of the lots to families. The animations took place over 6 months. Specific accompanying actions aimed at the most distant audiences of the book (people in situation of illiteracy, people of travel...) have been implemented successfully, as well as cross-training for book and reading professionals and early childhood professionals.
Almost 30% of families responded positively to the invitation to come and withdraw a lot. The others received it by mail at the end of the distribution period. This is a perfectible result but still extremely encouraging: we know that an operation of this size takes time before gaining sufficient notoriety; the operation also relies on very recent partnerships, which have taken some time to get started and which are now operating at full capacity; finally, the methodology has yet to be refined in order to make this invitation to read to families even more attractive.

It is in order to meet this requirement that we have chosen to focus this year on our means of communication and coordination, with the online launch, even today, a website offering a geolocation of all the places of lot discounts and animation.
This site will also offer an adapted version of the parental guide, accessible to people with visual or hearing disabilities. I recall that this guide, which received an enthusiastic welcome from professionals and families, was produced in 2009 by Murielle Szac for the texts and Anne Wilsdorf for the illustrations, under the coordination of the ministry and with the input of many partners in the operation.
The work of these two authors has been widely praised. This success reflects the central place that creation occupies within the First Pages system. This is a point which I would like to stress in particular in conclusion, by evoking the support for creation which the operation proceeds from, which makes it possible both to distinguish the work of a young author and to support the publishing house which gives him its trust.
It is a project proposed by Editions MeMo that won this year the votes of the jury gathered last May as part of the call for tenders carried by the CNAF. I would like to thank all the professionals who contributed to the preselection of the album and Marie Desplechin, author, as well as Aurélie Kieffer, journalist and president of Lire dans le noir, who participated in the commission that made the final choice, alongside the president and director of the CNAF, and Nicolas Georges.
I think we can be very pleased with this choice, which crowns MeMo’s exemplary work. In addition to its bold and demanding editorial line, alternating reissues and resolutely contemporary works, this house appears to be distinguished by its attachment to the materiality of the object-book that it celebrates through its impressions in pure colors on thick paper.
As for the album chosen, its quality seems to impose itself. And if you still have to be convinced, I invite you to read the original plates that Anne Bertier was kind enough to entrust to us, which allow us to replace «Mercredi», the work selected for the operation, in the whole of his work. I let you discover this beautiful album. I am told that the author started with a mime training. This is not to surprise me so much is perceptible, here as in his previous works, his privileged attention to the expressiveness of forms and the dialogue of postures, exploiting all the possibilities of play with the signs that graphic expression allows.
This work is extended and continued from album to album with a finesse and a quasi-microscopic precision that find a particular echo in the youngest readers, whose attention to detail and taste of the miniature is known. I like to think, then, that in the shared experience of reading to which we invite families, children, no matter how small, teach their elders as much as they will learn from them.
It is probably in this way that we will have helped them open the doors to a world – the world of storytelling, writing, imagination and graphic representation – that will make it easier for them to become active and autonomous citizens.
I therefore hope that this beautiful operation will find its place in the long term, in a form that we probably still have to evolve and through a broader mobilization, which will allow us to associate, on the basis of the collaboration we have been able to initiate, an even greater diversity of partners.