Turin: The diversity of topics that concern children’s literature, including content sensitivity, silent (wordless picture) books, and ways to further develop the tactile books industry to elevate the knowledge and experiences of young readers, have been tackled by the UAE Board on Books for Young People (UAEBBY) at three intellectual discussions they hosted during their participation at the Turin International Book Fair (TIBF 2019). The discussions were part of ‘Sharjah Guest of Honour’ celebrations.
The panels laid special emphasis on the content and techniques used in books designed for differently-abled and refugee children.
In the first discussion, titled, ‘Books, Children and the Dark Side’, was moderated by Eman Mohammed, and featured Emirati Author Alia Al Shamsi, and Italian researcher and author, Dr. Marcella Terrusi. The two literature experts analysed popular dark children’s classics and addressed questions about subjects that should be off limits for children’s books.
Both emphasised that the modern authors must explore their role in approaching new methods and writing techniques, that will turn the violence and hardships in dark classics into something suitable for children. They also presented examples of Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Pinocchio, and other international stories, that modified their plots or conclusions to make them more suited to young readers.
Noting that parents have a key role in protecting children from violent or other inappropriate content, the speakers also shed light on need for stronger dialogue and negotiation between the author and publisher in creating quality content that will ignite young imaginations through themes of love, empathy and understanding, and at the same time, educate them about the realities of life.
Books with no words have changed lives of children and their families for generations
In the second session, titled ‘Loud Silence’ Al Shamsi and Dr. Terrusi discussed the evolution of the silent books genre and how it is helping psychologically scarred children to heal in war-torn regions. They said that the history of promoting ideas and documenting historical events through pictures is as old as human existence. Adopting illustration as an alternative to literary writing, however, began emerging in the mid-twentieth in Europe, mainly to make the joy of stories accessible to the hundreds of thousands children affected by the refugee crisis who cannot read or speak the native languages of the countries they are seeking asylum in.
Making reading a sensory journey for children
In recent years, the market for tactile and five senses books has grown beyond catering to the visually-impaired and otherwise reading disabled to benefit all children and educators. The history and benefits of this literary segment was the central focus of the panel, ‘Reading with Your Senses’, led by Silvana Sola and Raouf Karray. They shed light on the author’s experience in creating these books that transcend conventional barriers of communication by leveraging the receiver’s senses of hearing, smelling and touching. They emphasised that the benefits of engaging all these senses in young readers will enrich their learning experiences, as the books are a combination of not just design and illustration, but also scientific skills.
These books are a powerful educational alternative. They introduce children to a diversity of publishing techniques like embossing and debossing, recessed images, as well as physical materials like cloth, leather and metal – all united creatively to put together a story narrative.
As concluding remarks, panellists have urged publishing industry players to support and enhance the skills of all those engaged in the production of tactile and five senses books, through specialised workshops and intensive educational courses.
UAEBBY is the national branch of the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY). Operating in more than 77 countries, IBBY is the main board based in Switzerland and founded in 1953. The organisation is an international network of institutions and individuals from around the world who are committed to promoting and encouraging the culture of reading and bringing children and books together.
© Press Release 2019