Lots of noise around the Silent Books this week. In two workshops in County Clare, Syrian children brought their parents to explore the library’s set of wordless picture books from around the world. We started with a group story, using props to create characters and plots, including magic conkers that granted wishes and cats that jumped inside a book.
Each child then chose a silent book, explaining why the cover had caught their eye and guessing at the story inside. With their parents, whose English was more limited, they ‘read’ the book in a mixture of Arabic and English. Through questions and wonderings, everyone entered into the stories and beyond, imagining prequels and sequels, or using the illustrations to weave more strands into the story.
The children then took it in turns to sit on a ‘flying carpet’ in the middle of the group and tell their story to everyone. They drew pictures inspired by the books and the conversations around them.
A brilliant reminder of the unique delight and intimacy that a book unhindered by words can bring.
We had an unforgettable midnight tour of the new Greek National Library during the Athens Congress with our wonderful spontaneous tour guide Sofi Gilda of IBBY Greece. The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre library was alive in the darkness with readers, browsers, students drinking coffee and chatting amid the halls and shelves and walkways of this state-of-the-art work of art.
There must be so many beautiful, creative libraries and library services in IBBY countries around the world. Two of Ireland’s treasures are the 18th Century Long Room at Trinity College Dublin and the Marsh Library a few blocks away. The Long Room is a Hogwarts-worthy wonder lined with marble busts of great philosophers and writers.
Marsh’s Library, beside St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin is Ireland’s first public library dating from the 17th Century. The interior is beautifully preserved with oak shelves and three ‘cages’ in which scholars were locked to protect the books, complete with a skull on their desk to remind them of their mortality. A serious business, reading …
A warm welcome from IBBY Ireland to Europe’s new section, IBBY Albania.
Looking for books in a different language? The IBBY Europe website https://www.ibby-europe.org/ promotes books in European languages. To find out how to use the website to add new books and replace those out of print, contact Hasmig Chahinian at email@example.com).
The European Newsletter: October 15 is the deadline for sending your news and pictures for the next edition. For more details, contact Hasmig at the above email.
The IBBY European Conference: thanks to the support of the Bologna Children's Book Fair and IBBY Italy, the second regional Conference will be held in Bologna on 4 April 2019. The conference theme is Languages in Europe, supporting the right of every child to access books in his/her own language. As well as exploring theories of language learning, speakers and participants will share experiences and ways for national sections to increase the availability of books in different languages. All ideas and suggestions for speakers are welcome. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
The organising committee are: Doris Breitmoser, Hasmig Chahinian, Eva Devos, Pam Dix, Sabine Fuchs, Deborah Soria, David Tolin.
A powerful theme at this week’s IBBY Congress in Athens was the ability of children’s books to bring hope in chaotic, confusing and, for many, terrifying times. In her talk ‘Before they Give the Order’, author Deborah Ellis (The Breadwinner etc. http://deborahellis.com/) spoke of books as prevention not cure. Children brought up on stories about vastly different lives and perspectives will grow into global citizens - politicians, truck drivers, lawyers, parents, teachers, shopkeepers - full of empathy, compassionate curiosity and the ability to connect with other cultures. This generation of peace-lovers, she said, will be equipped to resist and drown out the voice of anyone who ‘gives the order’ to shoot, abuse, ethnically cleanse or hate in any other terribly human way.
Gregory Maguire (Wicked etc. http://gregorymaguire.com/) turned on ‘The Light Within the Story’. He celebrated fairy tales as beacons of ‘heroic generosity … small and intense like garlic’ that endure because they champion love, kindness, justice and mercy. (Of course they do a good line in sexism, ageism, ugly-ism etc. too, but his enchanting talk swept us above the isms and into their beauty.)
Inspiring, thrilling stuff – all made possible by the wonderful generosity and organisation of the hosts, IBBY Greece. Where better to light up the darkness than the birthplace of democracy? Go raibh míle maith agat from IBBY Ireland for a wonderful three days.
Talk about melting pot – East and West have met with a cheer at the 36th IBBY International Congress in Athens. On the first of the three-day conference, delegates and speakers from many of the 76 member countries presented papers and posters and shared ideas and stories to promote intercultural understanding through children’s books.
From fairy tale retellings to refugee experiences portrayed in literature, talks explored ways of bringing east and west together through books. Themes included the use of boats in stories, real and fictional, to act as bridges between cultures, and depictions of war in Greek literature from Herodotus to modern graphic novels.
And perhaps the highlight - a sung and spoken performance of parts of Homer’s Odyssey, accompanied variously by an Ancient Greek flute, harp and conch shell.
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.
For the final leg of its Irish tour, the IBBY Collection of books for and about young people with disabilities is stopping over in Wexford Town Library where author-illustrator Tatyana Feeney brought it to life for local school children through a workshop called 'Take Leave of Your Senses'.