Words tease children’s minds into building a rich imagination. But at a time when more books are becoming available, book-lovers are noticing that children are reading less—and they are joining forces to try and change this.
Starting 4 February, the Association of Writers and Illustrators for Children (Awic) will hold a three-day international conference on children’s libraries, titled “Building a Book Culture”, in New Delhi. “The conference’s aim is to discuss methods to bring books closer to children,” says co-convenor Indira Bagchi. It’s aimed at educationists, library managers, school authorities and media professionals but is also open to the general public, especially children.
Awic is an India-based non-profit organization devoted to encouraging children to read. It has been running libraries in homes, slums and villages.Through the conference, Awic hopes to drive home its message of “reading for the joy of reading” and encourage school authorities, NGOs and government to set up more local and accessible children’s libraries.
“Delegates from 15 countries have been invited to share their experiences about running innovative libraries,” says Bagchi. Jambyn Dashdondog, who runs a mobile library in Mongolia, is one of them. Dashdondog transports books by bus and on the backs of camels and horses to make them available to nomadic groups across the Mongolian desert. He has so far covered 78,000km.
Then there is Monica Chojnacka, who runs the All Poland Reads to Kids Foundation, which promotes the reading habit by getting celebrities, sportspersons and politicians to read to children in public libraries.
A third delegate is Chanthason Inthavona, who runs the NGO Action with Lao Children. Inthavona set up the NGO to promote education and reading in Laos, a country where civil wars and political tensions hampered access to education. She chose to fuel the curiosity for learning through Japanese picture books.
The conference will be inaugurated by former president A.P.J. Kalam, who will give a presentation on the importance of reading.
The other international speakers include Ingrid Kallstrom Nilsson and Pia Cronholm from Sweden, Sook Hyeun Lee from South Korea, Takayo Muryama from Japan, Elizabeth Lee from Canada, Ken Spillman from Australia and Ingrid Bon from the Netherlands.
Building a Book Culture will be held from 4-6 February at the India International Centre auditorium, Max Mueller Marg, New Delhi. For details, contact 011-23311095.