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Halt decline in children's non-fiction, authors say

1st October 2012

Publishers and libraries must reverse a worrying decline of non-fiction for children or risk depriving them of crucial reading material, a group of writers has warned.

The 26-strong group, led by children's non-fiction writer Jenny Vaughan, argue the internet and a dearth of libraries has led to a slide in the volume and quality of non-fiction titles.

In a letter to the Guardian, the authors lament that 'once, there were hundreds of such books available, covering every topic imaginable – but, almost overnight, it seems, the market for them has almost vanished. Not, we think, because children don't want to know about the real world'.

According to figures from Nielsen BookScan, sales of children's non-fiction fell to GBP 41.1 million by August this year, a nine per cent drop on five years ago.

The authors cite 'the dearth, or even death' of school and public libraries and the belief that the internet 'provides all the information anyone needs' as driving the decline in children's non-fiction.

Booksellers have been 'dazzled by fiction' and have 'all but given up on the genre', they claim, driven by strictures of the national curriculum.

They are urging innovative publishers to start taking risks again: 'It means breaking free from the mould (straitjacket) of the curriculum and producing new non-fiction in forms and on subjects that will delight and inspire and getting young people interested in the world around them,' the authors say.

'We got to the end of our collective tethers,' Vaughan told the Guardian.

'We thought that something had to be done – that we've got to start making a noise about this before children's non-fiction is obsolete.'

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