I had the honour to chair a session on the second day of the Congress entitled : " Creating readers of the future". My panelists came from diverse backgrounds and represented almost half of the global publishing industry. All of them experts in the children's book market, I was curious to know whether children in Brazil had better access to books than children in China or India or vice versa.
Gita Wolf, from Tara Books in Chennai, India passionately described her love for visual tactile books, which she has won many awards for, including the prestigious Bologna Ragazzi Award. She stressed the importance of reading to children very early on, and talked about the role of parents in instilling a love of reading by making reading a daily habit.
Monica Malhotra, from MBD publishers in India shared some of her experience in running her family company which has a large focus on educational books. She talked about India having one of the youngest populations in the world and how the government is investing heavily in building more libraries around the country. She strongly argued that technology was there to support reading and how we must embrace the digital revolution to create more readers.
Karine Pansa from Girassol Books in Brazil said that Brazil has one of the highest illiteracy rates in the world, and the government has put in place a National reading strategy that aims to eradicate this illiteracy and encourage more readers. She also talked about the importance of providing books for the visually impaired through her work in the DNA.
Mingzhou Zhang from CCPPG, China is also Vice President of IBBY, and he talked about China's public library law and reading promotion culture which is encouraging more and more Chinese children to read. He also talked about the captivating children's books coming out of China now, where there is more emphasis on creating quality books for children. China will be the guest of honour in Bologna book fair, which will be a good opportunity to see more of the children's books coming out of China.
It was interesting to learn that many countries are struggling with the same issues, like children these days having more distractions around them which limits the time they have to actually read a book. However not all global challenges can be solved with global solutions. In some way, what works in China might not work in Brazil.
However, what resonated the most was the need for cross-cultural exchange between children's book markets. All my panelists stressed the importance of using books to educate children on acceptance and tolerance especially in this day and age when there is so much unnecessary conflict in the world. Hopefully by creating educated, open minded readers of the future we will see more peace and prosperity.
Bodour Al Qasimi
CEO and Founder of Kalimat Group, UAE
President of the Emirates Publishers Association
Member of the IPA Executive Committee