The write stuff for young readers;Briefing

15th January 1999 at 00:00

A Danish writing school for authors of children's literature - believed to be the first in the world - will open in March.

It will hone the technical skills of its students to meet the needs of younger readers - from small children and their very first "pointing books" to teenagers.

The school is part of a new Centre for Children's Literature, housed at the Royal Danish School of Educational Studies in Copenhagen and the adjoining National Library of Education. It has one of Europe's largest collections of children's literature - 80,000 books for and about children.

With an annual budget of 2.5 million kroner (pound;235,000), the centre will research, record and describe the general and educational literature of young people, and, through the writing school, help authors, publishers, school librarians and others produce better material.

"Today," says Torben Weinreich, who heads the centre, "11-year-old Danish girls read adult literature. They don't read the great Danish or international classics, but best-sellers, works that have been filmed."

Admission to the writing school is based on the quality of submitted work; the first applicants include an 82-year-old. The course, primarily evening and weekend classes over 10 months, covers both practical work, such as different writing techniques and genres, tutored writing exercises, and theory.

"Most authors can write for children once they correct their unrealistic concepts of what a child is, what it can do, what it understands," Weinreich says. "One of the hottest subjects at the moment internationally is the ambiguity problem - the concept that children's literature is good quality only if it contains a 'voice' addressing adults, so adults also get something from the books.

"There are large contrasts between those who say that children's literature that also satisfies adults is the only measure of quality and those who believe it distances children's literature from the child," says Weinreich.

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