IBBY Children in Crisis: Colombia



There are over 1,100,000 displaced children from a total displaced population of 3,663,000 as a result of the sixty year war in Colombia.  Some of these children are former child soldiers – a group which has suffered extreme trauma.

While there are a number of programmes that offer material and educational support to these children, it is important to move beyond these to support the emotional, interior needs that they have.  It is important that they be able to express their fears, conflicts, and hopes so that they can find a way to build an identity, and to find meaning in their lives and environment.

Asolectura has experience with reading groups for children who suffer from various forms of social exclusion.  This experience demonstrates that reading literature in groups accompanied by trained mediators offers these children the means to communicate their emotions, and to enrich their symbolic and daily language, as well as broadening their imaginative capacity with respect to the world and themselves.  Bibliotherapy can help children who are victims of war to acquire a distance from their own experience and through the use of words be more conscious of how war has affected their lives.

The Banco del Libro , which has a long experience in providing bibliotherapy and training in bibliotherapy – now recognised by the ALMA (Astrid Lindgren MemorialAward) – will participate in the project as an intellectual sponsor.  The Banco’s experiences can be found in a book Comunidades lectoras y la otra lectura.

The project will give children and young people, who have been displaced by armed conflict or demobilized from illegal armed groups, access to quality books and reading practices to help them to re-construct their lives and to recover emotionally from their trauma.

Twenty reading groups of ten children each will be formed with children drawn from institutions that offer protection to displaced children.  They will meet weekly and be offered books selected by the programme.  These groups will provide a space built around reading, reflection, dialogue, and the construction of meaning that will allow these children to rescue the use of language and to derive pleasure from it.

The groups will be led by mediators who are experienced in working with vulnerable populations.  They will also be trained in techniques that will allow for the evaluation of the programme.

Four traveling libraries each comprising 100 titles chosen for their quality, representing different genres, themes and styles will be available to the children in the reading groups.

The programme will provide training in the use of bibliotherapy by people currently working with displaced children and youth.  Young people ages 15-22 who are unemployed or are victims themselves of displacement, and who may have had little access to education, will also be trained to work with younger children thus amplifying the impact of the program.  This will allow them to be transformational agents themselves in their communities.  200 copies of the Banco’s title Comunidades lectoras y la otra lectura will be purchased for the training of mediators and training staff.

There will be a research component on the precise impact that reading and writing and its promotion actually has on the process of reintegrating these types of children into civil society.  One aspect of this research and training will revolve around a day long seminar reflecting on practices of this type of reading promotion/bibliotherapy and their effect on these populations.