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A child, reading a book

Children have the right to great stories

The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award was created in 2002 by the Swedish government to promote every child’s right to great stories. This global award is given annually to a person or organisation for their outstanding contribution to children’s and young adult literature.

To lose yourself in a story is to find yourself in the grip of an irresistible power. A power that provokes thought, unlocks language and allows the imagination to roam free.

The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award was created in 2002 by the Swedish government to promote every child’s right to great stories. This global award is given annually to a person or organisation for their outstanding contribution to children’s and young adult literature. With a prize of five million Swedish kronor, it is the largest award of its kind. Above all else, it highlights the importance of reading, today and for future generations.

Few have done more for the right of children to a rich inner life than Astrid Lindgren. The creator of stories beloved the world over, she was a renewer of children’s literature. She was also a steadfast humanist who made her voice heard in the public debate, speaking with moral conviction, with humor, and always with her focus on children and their future. When, in 2002, her voice finally fell silent, the Swedish Government decided to found an award to honour her contribution. Astrid LIndgren Memorial Award is awarded to those who continue to work in her spirit: with imagination, bravery, respect and empathy, and maintaining the highest degree of artistic excellence.

Laureates over the years have shown a great diversity of style, character and subject matter. But they have one thing in common, which also unites them with Lindgren’s own values and lifework: the conviction that for young people, only the best is good enough, and that children’s culture is important and deserves our most serious attention. That—in spite of everything—there is a future, if we work together for a more humane, more dignified existence for people of all ages, regardless of ethnic, religious, social, or geographic background. And that what unites us is greater than what divides us, and all change begins with our children.

The prize amount of SEK 5,000,000 ($513,000) is a signal to the world that Sweden takes children’s reading very seriously. The reading experiences we have as children mold us for life and shape our worldview. The young have a right to excellent literature: to books that are entertaining, innovative, challenging, or complex. This is a prerequisite for democracy and open societies. Reading books in translation fosters understanding among people and cultures. What will happen if our children never gain access to the worlds opened up by reading? Or as Astrid Lindgren herself said in “That’s why children need books”, the speech she held at the reception of the H C Andersen Award in April 1958:

“Everything great that ever happened in this world happened first in somebody’s imagination. Children create miracles when they read.”

From secrecy... 

After months—sometimes years—of painstaking deliberation and preparations, in the spring one or more laureates are named. The jury chair has the job of calling up the recipient immediately after the decisive meeting—and someone out there is about to pick up the phone and get a happy surprise! A public announcement of the laureate is made on the same day at a press conference in Stockholm. Public interest is high and news of the decision is picked up by media around the world.

...to celebration

Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award Week in May is the high point of the year! The laureate travels to Sweden to visit schools and libraries, address the public, and meet with both readers and journalists. The week concludes in pomp and state with the official acceptance of the award by the laureate in a ceremony at Stockholm Concert Hall. The Swedish Minister for Culture and Democracy, the Crown Princess Victoria, and hundreds of invited guests attend the ceremony to honor the laureate and children’s literature.