Your Worship, dear Patrice Bessac,
Dear Director of the Centre de promotion de la littérature de jeunesse
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a particular pleasure for me to be here today to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Salon du livre et de la presse jeunesse in Montreuil, where I have been for many years as a neighbour and a family. I thank you all the more for having offered me this moment of exchange with you, even before the official inauguration that will take place tonight.
For the past 30 years, this fair has been a growing success in the cultural year, attracting more than 160,000 visitors, including nearly 30,000 children who are accompanied in their discovery of reading.
30 years since it has been a showcase for the diversity and international influence of a sector, youth literature, one of the most dynamic of French publishing and on which French know-how, in terms of albums for example, is recognized.
30 years since it made access to reading one of its highest priorities and brought together all book professionals, associations, mediators, teachers, around the same ambition.
If I am among you today, it is because I share this ambition and because, like all of you who have put your talent, your career and your commitment at the service of reading, I believe in its decisive influence and its founding role in everyone’s life.
My deep conviction, which is also my intimate experience, is that reading is a powerful vector of emancipation that multiplies the power of our imaginations, invites us to dream and think, awakens our curiosity, it is also through reading that identity is affirmed: by taming loneliness and silence, one becomes inclined to be oneself, one enriches and strengthens one’s inner being.
This is why it is imperative that everyone, from an early age, can do, like Montaigne, from the book a friend: we must therefore create very early the conditions of a beautiful and long friendship with the book in our young fellow citizens and develop the place of the book and of the reading in the life of the children so that once adults, this face-to-face with the work and the author continues and becomes as natural as an exchange with a loved one. It is because we read young, and liked it, that we read all our lives.
I am therefore delighted to celebrate today with you a youth literature, a faithful companion of childhood and adolescence that provides the first great literary emotions, that introduces the subtleties of language, whose understanding of nuances is an invaluable resource for all ages and circumstances, making young readers the informed and passionate readers of tomorrow.
With youth literature, we are now celebrating a dynamic sector, which has grown strongly over the past 10 years in terms of both editorial production and turnover, both of which have doubled. No less than 115 million children’s books were printed last year, and there are more than 6,000 new titles.
This edition of the Salon is characterized by its great diversity and quality: around the great names of contemporary children’s literature in
the honor of the beautiful exhibition «Passages»: among them, Quentin Blake, Blexbolex or Philippe Corentin, around the «nuggets» which consecrate the outstanding works of this new edition and of which I greet the laureates and prestigious sponsors, Marie Desplechin and Gilles Bachelet.
These show in a striking way that children’s literature is, without a doubt, possible in its own right, and that the wealth found in it by young people has nothing to envy to that which adults come to seek in books addressed to them.
It is also one of the most recognized sectors of French literary production abroad. Our youth authors make children laugh or dream in Europe, America or Asia, and I am delighted!
This week in Montreuil is also the feast of authors and illustrators.
For it is through them that the vitality and influence of youth literature passes.
There are more than 150 authors, illustrators and designers invited this year and I wanted to address them today: the good economic results of the sector must not make us forget their concerns and I am very sensitive to them.
I know there are concerns about the evolution of remuneration, particularly in the context of the development of e-books. I also know that there are questions about the future of the artist-author social security system and the way in which supplementary contributions are made.
I will have the opportunity to speak on this important subject, but I would like to say that I want authors and illustrators to know that I am committed to their side at this great celebration.
On the particular point of the future of the social security system for artists-authors, I confirm that no reform project will be undertaken before a real consultation of all the stakeholders has taken place. As for the supplementary pension, we hoped, with Marisol Touraine, that a consultation would take place within the profession because it is the profession itself that manages this scheme and must decide its evolution.
I would also like to take this opportunity to tell you how shocked I was by the unacceptable attacks this year on certain titles of children’s literature. Literature is a space of freedom and openness and I will always be at your side to defend that of creators as well as readers.
But this Youth Book Fair in Montreuil is above all a celebration for young readers. And I would like to commend the remarkable actions in favour of reading carried out by the Salon and by all the actors it brings together.
As we have been doing for a few years, the Ministry of Culture wanted to gather on a stand entitled Agir pour la lecture des associations which mobilize for the benefit of reading children of all ages and to which I want to pay tribute today: the ACCESS Association for Young Children, Reading and Having Children Read for School Children, Reading to Teenagers, When Books Connect, ATD Fourth World or many others.
I have made access to culture one of my priorities.
This priority passes, and I am particularly attached to it, through books and reading.
Because reading is often the first contact with other artistic forms. How many artistic vocations are born from books? How many children turned to theatrical practice because they had read Molière, Anouilh or Ionesco?
In areas where the cultural offer is less abundant, but not only, the book is a window on new cultural horizons, a springboard for artistic practice or attendance at venues and museums.
I want to make reading awareness a strong focus of my action and launch a real dynamic towards the youngest. This dynamic is based in the first place on the existing and remarkable initiatives that bring reading to the younger generations, everywhere in our territory.
I am thinking of Operation Premiers Pages, led by the Ministry of Culture and Communication, which raises awareness among children and their families about the fundamental practice of reading: in 2014, this program reached 100,000 children, I hope that within two years, they are twice as numerous!
I am also thinking of the network of public libraries, whose under-15s make up 40% of the public and which offer young people a specific offer and high-quality mediation actions.
The implementation of school rhythms is a new opportunity to forge even closer links between the territory’s 16,000 libraries and young people, particularly through their contribution to extracurricular activities.
Examples already exist, for example, last year in Limoges, more than 430 workshops on topics as varied as cinema, play, comics, photography and birds were offered by the teams of the Bibliothèque francophone multimédia to children, as part of extracurricular activity time. In the Bouches-du-Rhône, in Fos, Istres, the Intercommunality of Ouest-Provence and the Intercommunal Media Library offer a peri-school «activity book» by age groups. Internet workshops, theatre readings, screenings are organized.
I will have the opportunity to come back to the new issues facing libraries, and the new paths that can be charted, at the National Library Assembly on December 8.
Finally, I would like to create a festive dynamic around youth reading: in the summer of 2015, I will launch a major national youth literature festival.
This initiative follows preparatory work with the Salon, the CNL, library associations, professionals in the book chain.
The purpose of this celebration is to emphasize the pleasure of reading and to combat the drop-out that we see in some adolescents.
It will be held in the middle of summer and the holidays, from July 15 to 31, the best time to reach young people and their families when they have free time.
A key principle will govern its implementation: to reach the greatest number of young people, especially those for whom books are not
Easily available, books must be taken out of the places dedicated to him and go with him to meet the public.
The youth festival will therefore make it possible to bring books to holiday places. I hope that partnerships will be forged with networks
The European Union has a number of national institutions, such as campsites, leisure centres and holiday clubs, where books are not widely available. The networks of libraries and voluntary booksellers will, of course, be essential to conceive, together, the means of making available books and activities to accompany this reading. We will not forget all the children who cannot go on holiday, for whom the presence of books is all the more important. Itinerant bookmobiles will also be able to go directly to vacation spots.
With this initiative, which will only be able to take its full scale gradually, thanks to the support of the communities and the whole chain,
I want children to be able to experience reading as a shared pleasure, and to strengthen the place of books among the many modes of entertainment offered to them.
To the question posed to us this year by the Montreuil Youth Book Fair: «30 years is big?» I answer: yes, it’s very big! This is very great for an event that attracts a growing number of visitors and reflects the vitality and creativity of an entire sector.
I would like to thank Sylvie Vassallo, the teams of the Centre de Promotion du Livre de Jeunesse en Seine-Saint-Denis, who, during the Salon, but also through all the actions undertaken throughout the year, does a remarkable job: If children’s literature has probably become the 10th art today, it is also thanks to you!
And I warmly greet the local authorities, in the first place, of course, the General Council, for their conviction and commitment to carrying out such an ambitious project over the long term.
The Fair is also a symbol of what can be most fruitful in cultural policy partnerships and the result of local communities' investment. At a time of territorial reforms and the choices that each must make, this is particularly worth reaffirming.
It is also very great, because of the challenges that this Salon highlights and that we must seize with ambition and audacity: developing the taste of reading among the youngest and allowing them to make of the book a friend, it is also the mission of my ministry and my ambition.