If it was not because Fanuel Hanán Díaz He's so young (or appears to be) I'd feel comfortable calling him a scholar. But of course, when such a word is evoked, one imagines an arrogant old man. And that is exactly what Fanuel is not, who on the contrary, even though he can display readings, research, titles, awards and recognitions, instead prefers the simplicity of a good talk and sharing what he knows and is passionate about.
This time we bring LuaBooks readers this interview with the children's literature theorist and researcher, Fanuel Hanán Díaz, with whom we will talk about children's literature, books as a revelation, the responsibility of the editor, the encounter around reading, the school and the intermediaries of the promotion of reading and of course, we will talk about the book album and its future.
LC: Many times we have heard about the importance of reading and books. Fanuel, why is reading so important to you? What changes children's literature in children?
I remember the first time I had a book in my hands… In Venezuela there is a tradition of the baby Jesus who brings gifts to children. We were all the brothers taking out the packages, seeing the bicycle. When suddenly my grandmother told me I was missing a package. And I discovered that at the foot of my bed, wrapped in a simple and modest craft paper, was a package with two books: one was Peter Pan and the other was a version of The island of the treasure. And I believe that for me that gift was so powerful that from then on I felt something that I had never felt before: the need to read. And I remember they told us that we should go to sleep, but I wrapped myself in the sheet and with one of those big, heavy flashlights, at night, I kept reading the book because I wanted to finish it. And from there, those books in particular touched my soul in such a way that it made me a reader. It was like a revelation and I feel that this is what reading does in one, and in children especially, and it is to reveal yourself and discover something in you that perhaps you did not know existed.
LC: Is just one book enough?
I think so. Scottish librarian John Spink says something like "the right book should reach every reader at the right time." And for me that is one of the great truths that sustains the magic that makes a child in the appropriate contact with a specific book, become a reader. Therefore, one of the great responsibilities of mediators and one of the highest responsibilities of all adults who are as intermediaries in this reading process, is to help children find the books that suit them at those appropriate times. to change life forever.
LC: Where do the books take us?
Many times we say that books are faithful companions; sometimes we say that reading is like traveling but being in the stillness of your seat. I believe that these two things are fundamental. Because through reading I have traveled the depth of the earth; I have been in the mines of King Solomon, I have been in the perpetual snows, I have been lost in the jungles and I have also been shipwrecked with the Swiss Robinson and his family. And all of this has happened in the same place, in the same seat, in the same room. That ability to travel through reading, for me, is fundamental.
LC: So what responsibility do editors have in all this?
I feel that in the publishing market there is a saturation of poor quality books: books that could be completely expendable. There is a Brazilian writer who won the Hans Christian Andersen Award called Ana María Machado. One day I heard him say that the books should be worth at least the trees that are cut to make the pulp of the paper of that book. And I believe that when we become aware of how predatory human beings are, and think a little deeper about that high responsibility that publishers have, you'll have to question whether it's worth cutting down a tree that took seven years to grow, with a whole world of insects and bird's nests. You wonder if it's worth cutting it to make the pulp of a book really despicable and that you can throw it away, because nothing will happen if that book disappears. I think those are some of the questions an editor should ask himself.
I believe that there is a great responsibility of the publisher, especially in taking quality books and that means taking as much time as necessary. Books sometimes take a year or two to orchestrate those exceptionally quality texts and illustrations to conform to an ecosystem that has a lasting impact on the reader. I think that's an undisputed task that every editor should have, especially a children's literature editor.
Lc: School is a vital space in reading promotion. From your perspective, how do you see school intermediation in readership?
The school demands a lot of news. And this leads to publishers sometimes embarking on unnecessary races against time and taking out books that are not mature and of dubious quality. And this is a basic problem for the reading training circuit. On the other hand, the school demands "knowledge acquisition" and that is why children's books are often surrounded by additional materials (guides and workbooks) that allow the teacher to meet the demands of the school. And of course, at the end of a reading in which your heart is throbbing because you were very excited, in which you connected with a character, in which you had an adventure, in which you discovered a mystery, in which you were afraid or maybe moved by emotion, obviously all that gain on a spiritual level, you kill it when you have to answer a series of questions. And that's really affecting the formation of the literary reader. I believe that the school should encourage the acquisition of knowledge around the language but that is what the books and readings included in the textbooks are for.
Lc: They say life is the art of encounter. And if reading is part of life it must be a meeting space as well. How does encounter and dialogue work in reading training processes?
One of the most beautiful considerations of reading is that it is seen as a meeting place. A space that allows you, above all, conversation. I think that establishing a conversation around reading is one of the strategies that allow you that encounter. Many adults have the possibility of promoting this dialogue if they ask really valuable questions, if they ask intelligent questions, if they ask open questions about what that reading can arouse in the reader: around the opinions that this reading could have generated, around the feelings that reading may have generated in the reader and also around speculation. If we see reading as a theoretical model, a very interesting proposal is to see reading as a possibility of constantly building hypotheses. When you are a reader you always wonder about the fate of the characters or you go ahead to know what is going to happen; you always make inferences. There is an extremely rich territory to build possibilities for dialogue. So there are many possibilities of building the dialogue from what a book leaves as a living territory of information. Likewise, I believe that adults have to some extent a kind of baton, due to our developed capacity to understand the operation of signs. Adults can guide a process in which the child expresses how he feels that reading has touched him, the possible interpretations of a book, and the keys that can be revealed to reach a personal path to understand a book. That is why it is said that a book is as many readings as so many readers. I find a small essay by Aidan Chambers entitled “Tell me” fascinating, in which he proposes a methodology to establish this conversation, especially with young people. I think that is a very interesting, appropriate and intelligent way to make books settle in the spirit of a community of readers.
LC: Your book Read and look at the album book is one of the most important theoretical references for the analysis of this genre. Tell us a little about the album book and its characteristics.
Currently the book album is the genre or category of book with the greatest presence in libraries, bookstores and in reading training spaces. The album book is basically characterized by maintaining a close relationship between text and illustration and its ultimate meaning is built from this interrelation. This means that there are many variables in this relationship. Sometimes the relationship is very close and other times very far. And in that gradation of distance and closeness between both codes, there are multiple possibilities in which not only text and illustration come into play, but also other elements such as layout, use of white space, typography that sometimes grows of size. That is why the album book is becoming a dynamic ecosystem, with many elements, as if it were a planetary system that is moving in invisible perfection, making this an interesting sense system to explore.
This complex ecosystem with these elements that form this invisible perfection, this cohesion, also implies that the reader commits himself to these elements vibrating and making sense for him and for the interpretation of the whole. That is why I consider that the album book makes a fundamental contribution to reading training, as it requires the reader to be participatory and to fill in part of the interpretation those interstices that are created in the dialogues of the different elements. Sometimes, directly, the reader has to intervene by touching or moving the book to make sense of it. But sometimes, in a less direct way, the reader has to "complete" and that is what makes the album book so sophisticated, since languages start to leave loose ends that must be completed and magically put together by a reader. smart and committed to finding meaning. I believe that this is why the album book is increasingly approaching, due to its usefulness and flexibility, new formats and new reading proposals, which will give it a much broader horizon and a very interesting future. It is a genre that has the ability to adapt, re-signify itself and make increasingly novel proposals.
LC: And how is reading in digital formats, the interactive album book changing the way of reading?
Increasingly there is an Internet behavior, a few generations of digital natives who constantly browse many devices. The above has changed the perspectives of reading quite a bit. I imagine how reading could be in the future, digital reading, that reading that involves a whole number of elements that the physical book does not have, for example the multimodal, the sensory channels that are activated. An interactive digital book allows you to have music, video, and in turn, combine it with elements that imply that you touch a screen, that you act on a menu or a device for something to happen. And more and more you become an active participant, even a “co-author” of the story. And this enormously changes the possibilities of forming readers with other habits.
I am not one of those who predict that the physical book will die. It seems to me that the physical book has vigor, strength, it has a lot to tell. It will obviously change. If, for example, we look at the album books that were produced in the eighties and nineties, we can notice abysmal differences with the books that are being produced lately, which are more linked to the interactive world: their pages move and this implies that the reader manipulate and that before was not so typical of the album book. So I think languages start to mix and borrow from each other.
LC: And finally, Fanuel, what do you feel is missing from current children's literature?
I regret that poetry is absent more and more. For me, poetry is fundamental in the reader's path and in the formation of other elements that narrative does not have. It seems as if the queen, the favorite, is the narrative. But poetry, which is that stillness and that exploration of feelings, is being lost as part of the future of the digital book and the printed children's book.
More about Fanuel Hanán Díaz
Theorist and researcher of children's literature, graduated in Letters from the Andrés Bello Catholic University. He was coordinator of the department of selection of books for children and young people of the Banco del Libro in Venezuela. Visiting professor in the Gretel Master's Degree in Children's Literature and author of the CERLALC virtual course on Creative Writing. Fellow of the Internationale Jugendbibliothek (Munich) to develop research on printing processes in old children's books. With the support of the French Embassy, he carried out research on Jules Verne's work in Amiens and Nantes. Editor of Barataria: Latin American children's and youth literature magazine.
Fanuel Hanán Díaz has been sworn in in children's literature in various international competitions. He was a jury of the Bratislava Biennial. He has conducted his talks and lectures in different countries in Europe and Latin America. Winner of the National Prize for Children's Literature and member of the IBBY Honor List, 2008.
Some books by Fanuel Hanán Díaz
- Read and watch the album book: a genre under construction? Bogotá. Norma, 2007
- Love is a little bug. Caracas. Editions B, 2007
- Seeds from Mexico. Mexico. Tecolote Editions, 2007