Not everyone likes reading; not everyone can write, but who doesn’t love a good story? And where words fail pictures can prevail, as the Silent Books (IBBY’s travelling collection of more than a hundred wordless picture books) have proved, crossing continents and connecting cultures around the world.
At the Youth Library Group (YLG) Annual Seminar this month, librarians from across Ireland gathered in Ballinasloe, County Galway, to explore ways of encouraging a love of books in children and young people.
After a session on recommending good reads, the focus turned to pictures. YLG participants heard how the first set of Silent Books was brought to the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa in 2012 to bring comfort, escape and delight to refugees on their journey to Europe. They learned about the set of Silent Books that visited libraries around Ireland last year. This travelling exhibition was accompanied by IBBY Ireland’s Nation Creation workshops in which primary school pupils dreamed up, drew and described their ideal countries, complete with laws, flags and anthems.
Participants then browsed the Silent Books themselves, kindly loaned by Marian Keyes at dlr LexIcon who collated the library’s own set after the Irish tour. The beauty of the books, both visually and conceptually, inspired ideas for their use in libraries and schools, such as creating new stories from a single page of pictures; encouraging children to tell the stories from the pictures; asking questions to provoke curiosity and wonder, and using the calming environment of a book in a library to teach English to immigrant children and their families. The wild visual adventures between the covers are a wonderful springboard for language learning, imaginative play, confidence building, intercultural communication and celebration of difference.