IBBY-ASAHI Reading Promotion Award Ceremony 2008

Laudatio by Elda Nogueira
President, IBBY-ASAHI Reading Promotion Award Jury 2008

Dear representative of the city of Copenhagen, dear IBBY President, dear Mr. Ono from the Asahi Shimbun, dear Award-Winners, dear President of IBBY Denmark, dear IBBY friends,

I am very honored to be here, in Copenhagen, at the 31st IBBY Congress, presenting the IBBY Asahi Reading Promotion Award. We are in the land of Hans Christian Andersen, the author who has enchanted so many children around the world, known as having brought joy to children across the globe with his fairy tales.  It is still unacceptable that so many children do not have the right to hear about The Ugly Duckling, The Princess and the Pea, The Little Mermaid and so many other tales. They are not given the right to read stories.

Two elements of IBBY’s mission are: to give children everywhere the opportunity to have access to books with high literary and artistic standards and to encourage the publication and distribution of quality children's books, especially in a country’s own language or languages.

The IBBY Asahi Reading Promotion Award was launched to encourage those two aspects on IBBY’s mission. It is presented every two years to two institutions or groups whose projects are judged to be making a lasting contribution to reading promotion for children and young people.

For the 2008 Award, IBBY received projects nominations from eleven National Sections: five from Africa, two from South America, two from Asia, one from the Middle East and one from Eastern Europe. The jury found all of them of great merit. They were all aimed at children in disadvantaged circumstances, with little or no access to books and reading. We would like to award all of them. Nevertheless we could only select two projects. After examining each project, the members of the 2008 IBBY Asahi Jury have chosen the Project developed in Lao, Action with Lao Children and Editions Bakame, developed in Rwanda, for their completeness and extent as well as endurance.

The Project Action with Lao Children was created by Ms Chanthason Inthavona, who lives in Japan. Up to the Lao civil war and revolution in the  70’s the Laotians had no public education. While raising her children in Japan, Ms Chanthason discovered the magic of picture books, she noticed that they stimulated the children’s imagination and also the importance of reading books. She strongly wanted to share this pleasure with children in Lao.

In 1982, she established in Japan “The Association for Sending Picture Books to Lao Children”.  The association collected used Japanese books to send to Lao children with Ms Chanthason own translations. Then the association realized that just sending books was not enough. They had to train teachers to use the library as well as to organize reading seminars to teachers in order to make them understand how to introduce to children the pleasure of reading. They also realized that they needed to publish books in the Lao language. Those books made the school attendance rate rise and made the children more active. The project became, then, a non-government organization with the title “Action with Lao Children The changes resulting from the project motivated the Lao government to ask for the cooperation of the organization. Action with Lao Children, inspired by the “Mobile Library” from Thailand, started its own Mobile Library Project sending books all over the country in a “Book Bag”. The activities of the association that had started in Japan were then spread in Lao.” During 26 years of work, the project has published 130 titles in the Lao language with 620,000 copies, reaching 14 provinces.

The other project awarded is Editions Bakame. Following the Rwandan genocide of 1994, Agnes Gyr-Ukunda who lives in Switzerland, decided that she had to do something for the people of her country, particularly the younger generation. In Rwanda, reading was not part of the culture. There were very few books and writers. On the other hand the country has a rich oral story telling tradition. In 1995, Ms Gyr-Ukunda and her husband decided to set up Editions Bakame, as an independent, non-profit publishing house for children and young people.

Its aim was to give children books in Kinyarwanda, the national language understood by all Rwandans. Bakame is the only Rwandan publisher to offer picture books, stories, documentaries, novels, in Kinyarwanda for children and young adults. It also works towards the revival of traditional oral literature putting it in written form. Even though they had made books available, the project also considered that it was not sufficient to produce and distribute books, it had also to find ways on how to use them. They started reading campaigns in schools and special training for teachers to help them use story books in classrooms and have launched “rucksack libraries”, having distributed storybooks to encouraging reading among school children because libraries were not widespread all over the country.

Besides publishing books, Bakame organizes workshops to train authors and illustrators, giving them the opportunity to be published. Up to now it has already published 39 titles with a total print run exceeding more than 500,000 copies!

The project has impacted on more than 20 million people including those in neighboring countries like Uganda, Burundi, Congo, Tanzania and Kenya.

On behalf of the jury members, Hannelore Daubert from Germany, Reina Duarte from Spain, Ann Lazim from the UK, Ahmad Redza from Malaysia and Ira Saxena from India, I would like to congratulate all those involved with the two projects, especially Ms. Chanthasone Inthavong and Ms. Agnes Gyr for helping children enter the world of books and reading.

We would like to warmly thank the Japanese newspaper company Asahi-Shimbun that has been sponsoring this really important Award since its launching, in 1987. With its generous commitment the IBBY Asahi Reading Promotion Award can promote reading everywhere in the world.

Thank you very much 

Copenhagen, Denmark
9 September 2008