This content was published in the period between 3 October 2014 and 20 January 2019

Ministers on this page who have left the Government

Between 3 October 2014 and 8 March 2018 she was Minister for Children, the Elderly and Gender Equality.

Ministers on this page who have left the Government

Between 3 October 2014 and 8 March 2018 she was Minister for Children, the Elderly and Gender Equality.

Speech by Minister for children Åsa Regnér about children´s literature in Tokyo, oktober 2015

Published

Seminar on childrens literature at International Children´s Library in Tokyo.

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

“Reality is fairy tale enough! No princesses, adventures and men from space are needed. And above all; no sweet lies.” These words come from Gunilla Bergström, creator of one of the most famous Swedish boys Alfons Åberg. Over 40 years ago the first books about Alfons was published and it was followed by many more. Alfons is about five years old and lives with his father in a suburban area in Sweden. He is using his imagination to solve the trickiest situations in life.

Sometimes when I listen to Swedish authors like Gunilla Bergström and Pija Lindenbaum and recordings from interviews with Astrid Lindgren I am amazed how much they still, as adults, can identify themselves with a child.

In my work as Minister for Children this is very inspiring and above all important. If you cannot put yourself in the child’s position is difficult not to say impossible to make the right decisions.

The fact that these authors bear the emotions of childhood within them is reflected in their literature. Their deeper understanding of childhood is used to write exceptional books, loved by generations of children and their parents.

Some authors have also changed people’s mindset on childhood, childrearing and children’s rights. And one author in particular has had an exceptional impact on children’s lives.

Astrid Lindgren’s authorship was truly ground breaking in many ways, starting with Pippi Longstocking who needs no further presentation. Astrid Lindgren was very dedicated and involved in the debate in Sweden against corporal punishment of children. Sweden was the first country in the world who introduced a ban against corporal punishment of children in all settings in 1979. The year before the legislation was passed Astrid Lindgren held an unforgettable speech when she received one of her many prices. The speech was entitled “Never Violence” and is still today remembered as a very important viewpoint and has ever since been referred to constantly in the debate on the abuse of children and the mechanisms of violence. The speech is sadly just as relevant as it was then. Only 9 percent of the world child population are protected by law against corporal punishment. 45 countries have joined us in giving children protection under the law and an encouraging development is that 51 other countries have publicly committed to achieving a ban. In Sweden we are proud to see the line of original authors following Astrid Lindgren, reaching out to an increasingly growing audience internationally.

Childhood is not an experience isolated from the rest of life. Far from it, it is the base on which we stand on for the rest of our lives and therefore it must be handled with the outmost of respect. Whether we want to see it or not, we all have had to learn that childhood doesn’t consist of a row of sunny days with adults who always know and do what is right. Not even children are spared the sometimes harsh reality of life such as unreliable friends, disharmonious relationships, loss and death. And make no mistake, even if children are spared the direct experience, they know all about it and as adults we must admit that and treat them as equals. If we pretend that those parts of life don’t exist, we fail our children.

Many of the new Swedish authors reflect this in their books. Themes like death, love, friendship, sexuality, different shapes of families are being dealt with from the child’s point of view, always done with the greatest respect for the child as a reader.

For me, representing a feminist government who has the protection of children’s rights and gender equality as top priorities, this makes me even more proud.

In Sweden the work to make our children good readers are engaging a growing number of institutions. We can see some worrying figures on the ability to read among Swedish schoolchildren and this is a very serious problem, not at least from a democratic point of view. Authors like Martin Widmark, the creator of the amazingly popular detective stories for young readers, has taken on this task and are working actively to encourage children to read, and to read a lot. We all know what we have to achieve in this fight and we can’t lose it.

Japanese literature has indeed enriched Swedish youth culture through manga, which has not only attracted young readers but also inspired cartoonists and artists. The artist Ryoij Arai has been awarded the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award and has trough that reached many Swedish readers. Authors like Suekichi Akaba and Michio Mado are also appreciated and known in our part of the world.

And I know a middle aged man living with his cat in a somewhat unconventional, but still charming, house has reached your hearts. We are very happy and proud that Pettson and Findus are appreciated by our Japanese friends.

Gunilla Bergström says that life is a peerless enigma. We as adults can with the help of books guide our children to discover the world around them with curiosity and respect. With these words I would like to invite you into the world of Swedish literature for children. Take your time and bear in mind that many of these books are real masterpieces, having conquered enthusiasm of our most critical readers!

Thank you!

Åsa Regnér
Minister for Children, the Elderly and Gender Equality

Ministers on this page who have left the Government

Between 3 October 2014 and 8 March 2018 she was Minister for Children, the Elderly and Gender Equality.

Ministers on this page who have left the Government

Between 3 October 2014 and 8 March 2018 she was Minister for Children, the Elderly and Gender Equality.