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J. K. Rowling

Prince of Asturias Award for Concord 2003

It was a great surprise, and an even greater honour, to be told that I had been given the Prince of Asturias award for Concord.

I certainly didn´t set out to teach, or to preach, to children. In fact, I believe that, with rare exceptions, works of juvenile fiction suffer if the author is more intent on instructing his or her readers than beguiling them with a story. Nevertheless I have always believed the Harry Potter books to be highly moral. I wanted to depict the ambiguities of a society where bigotry, cruelty, hypocrisy and corruption are rife, the better to show how truly heroic it is, whatever your age, to fight a battle that can never be won. And I also wanted to reflect the fact that life can be difficult and confusing between the ages of eleven and seventeen, even when armed with a wand.

I have been writing stories for thirty-two years and have never wanted to be anything other than an author. I lost myself in books as a child, they were central to my existence, and my appreciation of their importance has only increased over time. Children need stories because they need to test their imaginations, try on other people´s ideas, inhabit other lives, send their minds where their bodies are not yet mature enough to go. No film, no television programme, no computer or video game can ever duplicate the magic that occurs when the reader´s imagination meets the author´s to create a unique, private kingdom.

The Prince of Asturias award is very meaningful to me because it celebrates that aspect of the books' success of which I am most proud: the fact that so many children, of such widely diverse backgrounds, have chosen to accompany Harry during his five years at Hogwarts. I will therefore be donating my prize money to the International Reading Association´s Developing Countries Fund, which promotes literacy worldwide.

(Note: Photograph © William de la Hey)

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