Respect for children

Maram Saqer, Hope from Nothing


In order to rescue childhood, a public effort is needed to combat its commodification, combating all forms of exploitation of young lives

The firm and emotional voice of Argentine writer Maria Teresa Andruetto, 2012 Andersen Prize winner, echoed in the packed auditorium of the America House, in Madrid, at the beginning of the work of the sixth edition of the seminar Read Iberoamerica Lee held on June 4th and whose central theme was Childhood Rescue (see in full at: ).

The author, an essayist who works with depth and acute intelligence on the issues of children's literature and the formation of male and female readers, began her speech permeated with literary references with the vital question: “Rilke advised the young poet that, when he thought he was no longer could write, return to his childhood. Childhood is the only country, like a first rain, from which we never completely dry out, says Saer. But what kind of childhood are we talking about?”

A more than pertinent question these days. What childhood or childhoods can the world of globalized hyperconnectivity build? It is still sustainable, given the harsh daily reality that shows online the massacre of children in genocidal wars and continued situations of malnutrition and death in territories devastated by hunger, the unique image of a happy childhood, homogeneously carefree and without the torments that apparently only affect adults?

Andruetto, throughout the seventeen points in which he weaves his lecture with sharp lines, connects all his lines with the word exclusion to which we segregate childhoods. When remembering his first readings of Andersen's stories, how The ugly duck, condenses, from the literary text, a central idea that the world insists on forgetting and that, by practicing forgetfulness, demeans the human being who is beginning his construction process: “I am referring to the exclusion, the expulsion suffered by their characters and the tremendous need for inclusion that inhabits them, as they are in absolute solitude; abandoned people who want to join the world's party, even though the world doesn't exactly offer them a party; What underlies these and many other stories is what to do to be loved, how to be as similar as possible to others so as not to be rejected and, at the same time, how to be special enough to have our own identity.”

I invite any reader to listen to Andruetto's lecture in the recording available on YouTube and accessible via the seminar website. The construction of the arguments that take us on a journey between antiquity and the contemporary in a literary back and forth that encourages us to reason and glimpse the paths we take and the power of words and literature that also inhabit us in the childhood universe is masterful. .

I could not help but reflect, as a researcher of public policies aimed at training male and female readers, on the more than urgent issue of childhood, starting from early childhood, on the reading plans that have sought to assert themselves in the Ibero-American region for almost two decades. Right now, in Brazil, the process of building the new ten-year PNLL has begun and I am concerned about how we will deal with this issue and what real possibility we will have in revolutionizing the bureaucratic practices that, in general, deal with this issue.

Andruetto's powerful presentation was followed by other speakers at the seminar, Read Iberoamerica Lee with fundamental perspectives so that the right to reading and the formation of full citizenship rights were, in fact, practiced from early childhood and throughout life. The rescue of childhood, the central theme of the event, also proved to be a rescue of human rights, respect for diversity, acceptance of differences and frank dialogue that seeks understanding and harmony among groups.

I understand that the best way to build new stages of public policies to affirm the word as an instrument for a better understanding of ourselves and the world, with respect for others and valuing ourselves as human beings, definitely goes through programs and continuous actions that understand the human being fully from his first days until the inevitable outcome of death. Human life, the human journey, is one, and public reading training policies need to start from this level, covering it in its entirety and offering quality programs in its entirety.

Therefore, we have to put an end to the little attention that we generally observe in book programs for children and young people, they cannot be repositories of just any books, poorly written, poorly illustrated, poorly edited, found like the despised merchandise in pallets of a few pennies.

Nor can we allow books intended for early years readers to be instruments of ideological distortion or other perversities, the result of sick and pseudo-religious minds, such as the fortunately failed program launched by the MEC in the previous presidential administration of sad memory, the infamous "Tell me", a mix of ideological smuggling from the American ultra-right with the literary mutilation of classics of children's literature. Recalling the great Marina Colasanti's criticism of the ill-fated project, she quipped: “Tell someone else!”

And if we have to be rigorous in the criteria and in the acquisition by public programs of books and literary materials appropriate to respect for children, providing them with access to quality products, it is equally imperative that we take care of the adults who provide the essential mediation to this public young. I am referring to the urgent need for plans and programs to pay rigorous attention to the training of professionals who, in turn, train children and young people.

With equal respect for them, first of all, one cannot just demand that they fulfill their duties, as base political opportunism usually acts. It is first necessary to rescue educators, library professionals, cultural agents in public facilities, among other professionals who live with children and young people, the dignity lost with degrading salaries, subcontracting and poor or insufficient training in rushed, bureaucratic and outdated. Duly recognizing and continually training these professionals with highly qualified trainers is an indispensable condition for the State's duty towards children and young people in the act of training male and female readers in their right to citizenship and equal insertion in the contemporary world.

In other words, in order to rescue childhood, a public effort is needed to combat its commodification, combating all forms of exploitation of young lives. From the most degrading customs, as denounced by the Colombian speaker of indigenous origin, the writer Estercília Pushaina, when describing the traditions of marriages between old men and teenage girls, to the editing and distribution of texts and books of very low literary and editorial quality.

It was with satisfaction that I learned of the resolution of the main institution of international cooperation for books and reading that we have in Iberoamerica, CERLALC/Unesco, which in its 2024/2025 agenda entitled “Cerlalc: an agenda of equity and justice in reading and the book” announces programs and actions aimed at early childhood and young readers. It is a decision to be followed by all countries in the region that develop national reading plans and let us hope that this happens.

Popular sayings remind us that we only have one life and we need to live it intensely. What popular wisdom often does not point out is that life begins in early childhood and this stage has equal rights to equity, social justice, and respect as a human being. It is time for the many civilizing steps that we have to take to seriously incorporate public policies for children and young people and the first thing to do is listen to them and respect their rights.

*José Castilho Marques Neto, He is a retired professor of philosophy at FCL-Unesp. He was president of Editora Unesp and the Mário de Andrade Library and Executive Secretary of the PNLL (MinC and MEC). Author, among other books, of Revolutionary loneliness: Mário Pedrosa and the origins of Trotskyism in Brazil (WMF). []

Originally published in the newspaper Draft.

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