IBBY Projects in Covid Times

2020 was an exceptional year in every possible way. Because of Covid-19, our lives have been turned upside down – no part of the world has been spared. It has now been almost a year since we have been able to travel across borders, we can no longer meet each other, many of us have to work from home, many people have lost their jobs, many countries have closed their schools forcing parents to juggle between teleworking and home-schooling their children. Most of our social and professional exchanges have to be online. Fortunately, very useful digital tools are now at our disposal, allowing us to be creative and able to adapt to the situation as best we can. Unfortunately, not all children have access to books at home or have any internet connection to access the content they need.

IBBY national sections around the world have been truly creative and responsive, using all the tools at their disposal to continue to organize workshops, readings, as well as keep in touch with their members as they continue to bring books and children together – all this despite the challenges we are all going through. Their work is a great inspiration and we are truly impressed by their energy and dedication.


    Stories, Pencils, Notebooks and Winter Clothes for Children in Gaza

To say that the health situation in Gaza is dramatic is an understatement. The siege situation that has been going on there for more than 14 years is a violation of international law and the UN had already announced almost 10 years ago that if the situation continued, Gaza would become unlivable within 10 years. With the Covid-19 pandemic the situation has deteriorated dramatically, since December 2020 the hospitals are full and the spread of the virus has been out of control. The lockdown comes on top of the fact that more than 55% of the population is unemployed, and access to clean water and electricity has reached crisis level. With the arrival of Covid-19 the children are required to stay at home where most have no access to books, computers, smartphones, internet or electricity.

Until the lockdown, the two libraries established by IBBY Palestine had managed, despite many problems, to set up a safe place for the children of Gaza, who could take refuge there to learn, read, draw and play. The libraries have now been closed for almost five months, making it very difficult for the IBBY section to reach the children that need support during this time. After long weeks of difficult lockdown, the library in al-Shawka Rafah was allowed to open to small groups of children who could visit to borrow and read books, as well as have a place to be able to write, draw and share their stories about their experience during the pandemic. Some of the early results were published on the IBBY website.


Since the first lockdown, IBBY Palestine has continued to distribute boxes containing pencils and notebooks, but have also added boxes of face-masks and hand-sanitizer. IBBY Palestine used also some of their limited funds to give food coupons and even to provide winter clothing for the children, which had been identified as one of the most urgent needs this winter.


    A Home-Delivery Book Service in El Salvador

In El Salvador, the IBBY section is based at the Biblioteca de los Sueños (Library of Dreams) in San Salvador. The library is in a very dangerous area, where children and young people are exposed to violence every day and where gangs are essentially determining the fate of children. The Library of Dreams was created as a place of peace and safety for the children, where books could help the children to dream and make healthy positive choices for their future.

Since the start of the pandemic the schools have had to close their doors. Because the children used to visit the library through the schools, it is now impossible for them visit the library on their own because of the violence that is ever-present the streets. As the activities of the library had to stop, the only way of reaching the children was to set up a system to deliver books directly to the children at their homes. The librarians have been able to do that for several months.

At the same time, Jorge Argueta, the founder of the library, has set up a library in his home village of Santo Domingo, which is open to small groups of children and staffed by young volunteers. 


Since February 2021, the Biblioteca de los Sueños volunteers in San Salvador were finally able to start sharing books again with children at the San Jacinto market.


     Tiny Books to the Rescue in Lithuania

IBBY Lithuania has also been very active since the beginning of the pandemic and has set up many initiatives to help families and support children during the long lockdown periods. One of their projects has been especially creative: Tiny Books to the Rescue is a project designed to encourage children to read at home, even when they have limited means.

The section invited authors and illustrators to create books folded from one sheet of A4-sized paper that each child can print at home. These little books are freely accessible on the internet for children to brighten their daily lives during the pandemic. The instigators of the project, a psychologist and a literary scholar, worked with the authors and illustrators to design books that could help the children overcome any emotional difficulties they may have experienced during this difficult time. 

By the end of the project over fifty accomplished Lithuanian writers and illustrators worked together to produce 37 Tiny Books. Nine of the little books have been translated into English and can be downloaded here.  


   Sri Lankan Publishing Project

Sri Lanka also faced a major nationwide lockdown in 2020 due to the pandemic. To help children better understand the virus and learn how to fight it, IBBY Sri Lanka published and distributed a free collection of books on awareness of Covid-19, and to explain the prevention of infection.

Since 18 April 2020, the section has published five books, which were launched and promoted online. These books were originally published in China and the translation rights have been donated to IBBY Sri Lanka by CBBY (IBBY China) thanks to the support of IBBY President Mingzhou Zhang.

The books are: Ten Tips to Fight Monsters—instructional booklet (Sinhala and English): By Beijing Science and Technology Press; Let’s Fight The New Corona Virus*—awareness booklet (Sinhala and English): By China Children's Press and Publishing Group (this booklet was distributed by the Sri Lanka Army, pharmacies and bookshops); Handbook of Covid-19 Prevention (Sinhala and Tamil): Donated by Central China Media Group; China’s Battle Against the New Corona Virus (Sinhala and Tamil): Donated by Foreign Language Press, Beijing; Wuhan in Corona Virus Lockdown—Stories of Courage and Determination (Sinhala): Donated by Foreign Language Press, Beijing.

Four of the books were published as e-books, and one was printed. A soft copy of the book Handbook of Covid-19 Prevention was donated to the Government Medical Officers’ Association of Sri Lanka.

Public demand for these books has been very high, both the printed and digital versions, showing a strong need for children to have a better understanding of the virus.


We are all looking forward to a better and more open 2021, but despite the arrival of the vaccine and the start of its worldwide distribution, many factors, notably the variants of the virus, lead us to think that we will have to live with Covid-19 for a long time. We thank the national sections and friends of IBBY for remaining committed throughout this challenging time to find new ways to bring children and books together. We would also like to remind you that IBBY continues to welcome support that allows this engaged international network to continue to implement such projects. 

To donate:  https://www.ibby.org/about/donations