CULTURE

Children’s book market is thriving

The children’s book market in Greece is booming, with books directed at children up to the age of 12 showing an increase of 2.1 percent in 2004, according to data released by the National Book Center of Greece (EKEBI). But is this an indication that children are in fact reading more? Does the 25.4 percent increase in children’s book titles since 1999 show that the younger generation is spending more time reading? Or is it just that parents, in addition to the other treats and presents they give their children, are also buying them the fancy books that are available almost anywhere, from supermarkets to carefully laid out children’s sections in bookstores? And do children really read the books that are bought for them? Let’s look at what the statistics, publishers and writers have to say. Imported titles Almost two-thirds (64.5 percent) of titles for children are translated into Greek from other languages. But the number of Greek writers is increasing too, and new authors keep entering the field. In 2004, there were 1,641 children’s titles on sale in Greece, of which 1,062 (62 percent) were intended for preschool children (with that category showing an increase of 27.6 percent on the previous year). «Books for very young children are selling in increasing numbers,» publisher Elena Pataki told Kathimerini, «because they are connected to games and activities. We brought out our first children’s book in 1983, and by 1991 we had built up a list of important Greek authors,» she said. Her company, Patakis, published 194 children’s titles in 2004, the largest number in Greece. Not far behind was Savvalas (with 185 titles), Modern Times (180), Minoas (111), Papadopoulos (93), Ellinika Grammata (79), and Kedros (78). ‘Choose what to read’ Kathimerini asked two children’s authors for their views on the booming market in children’s literature. Vangelis Iliopoulos, writer and teacher: «We know what is being sold but we don’t know what is being read. A book is a decent gift, there have been many campaigns to get children reading, and parents have got the message that a book is good thing. And books are cheap and attractive, they have lovely illustrations. «All this has created a worldwide boom. Greek teachers and parents have started to realize that reading is a good habit that is inculcated young. That’s why they often invite us [writers] to schools. «But the reading habit falls away in higher classes because of children’s reaction to schoolbooks. «In nursery schools, books are associated with games and that is why there is a boom. But the growth in publishing is not associated with any growth in quality. «There is a lot of rubbish around and there are some so-called literary series for children that simply prepare future readers for pulp fiction. When I visit schools I don’t say ‘Read’ but ‘Choose what you read.’ «The role of parents and schools is to help children to develop their criteria.» Christos Boulotis, author and archaeologist: «The boom in the production of children’s books is a modern paradox given the attraction that electronic images exert on children. It seems that children’s books are contending with the electronic monster. The growth in children’s titles these days can be explained on one hand by the large number of publishers and on the other by the pragmatic realization that young readers are a steady market. «The reading habits that statistics reveal nowadays is primarily cultivated at school by the establishment of school libraries and the promotion of educational programs, not only in private and model schools but at all schools in the country. «It is a consolation that non-school books, especially those of high quality, are fighting back, even Don Quixote style. «At any rate, they give wings to children’s imagination and counterbalance the violence to which they have become passive witnesses.»