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Book and youth press fair: books to get into reading

This Wednesday, November 30 opens in Montreuil, in Seine-Saint-Denis, the great annual festival of children’s books. In the bays of the Salon, the tables overloaded with colorful books testify to the richness and diversity of children’s publishing in France. There is something for all tastes and for all ages. But in recent years, a category of readers has attracted the attention of publishers in particular: beginning readers. Probably because starting to read constitutes a founding moment, determining for their future relationship with writing.

“Our main challenge is to help the child move from reading for exercise to reading for pleasure”, summarizes Erell Guéguen, publisher at Milan. Starting from the idea that “reading is sport when you are 6 years old”, the titles in the “Les petits pousins” collection offer games to warm up before tackling the story itself, then a diverted nursery rhyme to decompress, as a reward after the effort. As for the difficult words, highlighted in color, they find their explanation in a glossary judiciously placed in a flap of the cover.

Take the child out of his daily life

To accommodate 6-8 year olds, editors are generally careful to avoid overly complex vocabulary and simplify the plot as much as possible. “We avoid long descriptions in favor of dialoguessays Clémence Bard, editor at Casterman. The tone must be lively, dynamic and the issues always well defined. We even try to spare a little suspense at the end of each chapter to make you want to move on to the next one. »

Principles implemented in the “Prem’s” collection, launched last year. Gathered in series, ideal format to retain young audiences, these richly illustrated little novels take up the themes and codes that already appeal to the older ones: humor, fantasy world, adventure, ecology…

“You have to take the child out of his daily life to open him up to the world”, assures Hélène Millot, who directs the historical collections of L’École des loisirs, “Mouche” (created in 1987!) and “Moucheron” (launched in 2019), both intended for beginner readers. Faced with the abundance of books whose “pedagogical” approach risks, in her eyes, putting off children by reminding them too much of school, she relies on singular universes, “authors’ voices” and on the character captivating stories. With undeniable success: the series rotten dogwhich has seventeen titles, a cartoon adaptation and a feature film, has just exceeded two million copies sold!

The power of illustrations

The success of rotten dog is very much attached to the irresistible drawings of Marc Boutavant, awarded this year with the “La Grande Ourse” prize at the Salon du livre et de la presse jeunesse. For this age group which is barely leaving the albums, the illustrations still exert a powerful attraction and can make the difference in a bloated offer. Publishers have understood this well, like Hélium, which plays with the humorous discrepancy between text and image in its adorable series mole and field mouse (signed Henri Meunier and Benjamin Chaud) or which alternates comic strips and blocks of text in the incredible investigations of Miss Cat.

The same concern to move forward smoothly on the path to reading with the “Ginko” collection from Voce verso, which aims to be a transition between albums and classic novels. “Presented in the form of small notebooks that can be taken anywhere, the stories are short so as not to impress the reader, with an airy layout and a strong graphic identity”boasts Sophie Tran Van, who also designed a visual code to indicate not the recommended age, but the level of skill required (a ginkgo leaf for those who begin to read, two for those who read on their own and three for those who devour), in order to respect the pace of progress of each child.

Publishers are not lacking in ideas, as we have seen. But is it enough to offer books, however attractive they may be, for your child to pick them up? “The role of parents is essential from birth, through the ritual of evening reading and the presence of books at home, so that they become familiar objects”recalls Aurélien Bresson, vice-president of the National Federation of Speech Therapists, who each year leads a prevention campaign against illiteracy and language disorders (“1 baby, 1 book”) and provides advice to parents on the site “Hello Ortho”.

Lead by example

Instead of making big speeches about the benefits of reading (” It’s good for you “, “You will get better grades at school”…), Ève Hermann, author of My child likes to read. Cultivating a love of reading as a family (1), advocates leading by example. And if you’re not a reader, “there is always time to get started”. Why not read what he reads and discuss it together?

Among the many ideas gathered in her essay (bringing the family library alive by regularly exhibiting certain titles, organizing reading clubs, poetry snacks, listening to audio books, meeting authors in libraries and bookstores, etc.), she also advises to read aloud, as a family, texts that the children would not be able to read alone. “It pulls them upwards, towards beautiful literature, on condition that this magical moment of sharing and complicity is not transformed into a learning situation. »

Should we worry about their appetite for comics or manga? “Above all, we must not make the child feel guilty about his choices but rather encourage curiosity”recommends Régine Hatchondo, president of the Center national du livre, who is more worried about competition from screens.

The author Emmanuel Guibert, father for twenty-two years of the successful series Ariol, countless testimonials from children (and grateful parents) for whom this comic book was a “gateway” to reading. He compares this course to going to the “the fear that we feel if we are forced into the water at full force when we cannot swim. We are afraid to drink the cup, to be overwhelmed by events. If the buoy is well inflated, colorful, and we are surrounded by smiling people who help us, we end up swimming! »


Young people and reading

81% of 7-25 year olds read for leisure, for personal taste. On average, they declare having read, during the last three months, 2.1 books for school or work (2.5 for primary school students) and 5.4 books for pleasure (8.4 in primary ).

They devote 3:14 a.m. on average per week but spend 3h50 per day in front of a screen.

16% of young people say they don’t like to read.

7-19 year olds prefer comics compared to novels. For 55% of them, it is the category of books they read most often, against 46% for the novel genre. Interest in manga is up sharply, with 40% of declarations, compared to 23% in 2016.

43% of young readers follow the advice of their family, including 31% of their mother, who is more often a reader than their father.

67% go to the CDI or the school library at least once a month.

Close to six out of ten young people have ever listened to an audiobook or podcast.

Source: “Young French people and reading”, CNL study published in March 2022


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