Children need art, stories, poems and music as much as they need love, food, fresh air and play. If you don't feed a child, the damage is quickly visible. If the child is not allowed to have fresh air and play, the damage is also visible, but not so quickly. If you don't give love to a child, the damage may not be visible for a few years, but it will be permanent.
But if you don't give a child art and stories, poems and music, the damage won't be so easy to see. However, it is there. Their bodies are healthy enough; they will be able to run, jump and swim and eat hungry and make a lot of noise, as children have always done, but something will be missing.
It is true that some people grow up without any contact with art of any kind and are perfectly happy, and live good and valuable lives; people in whose houses there are no books, and they don't care much about paintings, and they can't see the interest of music. Well, there is no harm. I know people like that. They are good neighbors and useful citizens.
But other people, at some point in their childhood or youth, or even old age, are faced with something they never dreamed of before. It is as strange to them as the dark side of the moon. But one day they hear a voice on the radio reading a poem, or they pass a house with an open window someone plays the piano or they see a poster of a painting on someone's wall and it hits them so hard and at the same time so kind that they get dizzy. Nothing prepared them for this. They suddenly realize that they are full of hunger, although they had no idea of it until a minute ago; a hunger for something so sweet and so delicious that it almost breaks your heart. They almost cry, they feel sad, happy and lonely and welcomed by this completely new and strange experience, and they are desperate to hear closer to the radio, they stay outside the window, they can't take their eyes off the poster. They wanted it, they needed it like a starving person needs food, and they never knew it. They had no idea.
This is what happens to a child who needs music, paintings or poetry, when they come across these things by chance. Were it not for this chance, perhaps the meeting would never take place, and she would spend her entire life in a state of cultural hunger of which she had no idea.
The effects of cultural hunger are not dramatic and rapid. They are not so easily visible.
And, as I said, some people, good people, friendly friends and helpful citizens, never get to experience that. They are perfectly fine without it. If all the books and all the music and paintings in the world disappeared overnight, they would not be missed; they wouldn't even notice.
But this hunger exists in many children, and it is often never satisfied because it has never been aroused. Many children, in all corners of the world, are starving for lack of something that feeds and nourishes their souls in a way that nothing else in the world could.
We rightly say that all children have the right to food and shelter, education, medical treatment, and so on. But we must understand that all children are entitled to experience culture. We must truly understand that without stories, poems, paintings and music, children will also go hungry.
Text written by Philip Pullman (Original version) for the tenth anniversary of the 2012 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award.