In the Mediterranean Sea, on the island of Lampedusa — a mere speck of land compared to the great boot of Italy — something big is happening.
Lampedusa is part of Italy but lies so far south that it is, in fact, closer to Tunisia in Africa. In recent times, Lampedusa’s affiliations and location — part of Europe, yet also removed from it — have made it a landing point for migrants from Africa and the Middle East fleeing war, persecution, and other desperate situations in their homelands.
Among these migrants are children and young people, some accompanied by family members and some on their own. Heartbreakingly, many migrants have died while on their way to Lampedusa.
The children and young people who do make it to the island have many needs -- for food, medicine, and shelter. And they have other needs, also important, that must be met. Those needs include books.
Having access to books, and the means to understand them, is crucial because stories and language, both spoken and written, help children make connections with others. Books let readers know they are not alone, and introduce them to other worlds and experiences and perspectives. Without books, one may be able to survive. But with books, a person can do so much more: they can flourish and thrive.
In recognition of the transformative role of books in the lives of children and young people, The International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) is working to establish Lampedusa's first children's library. To build the library's collection, the Italian section of IBBY has gathered outstanding wordless picture books from 23 countries.
Why wordless books? Wordless books (also known as silent books) have a universal language of image and art. They allow all readers to dive into a range of stories: ones that are slapstick-silly, tender-hearted, suspenseful and soothing. Without the barrier of language and words to keep readers out, connections happen instantly.
Wordless books are, in short, perfect for the young migrants in Lampedusa, who come from a variety of cultural backgrounds and speak different languages.
To showcase the library, an exhibit of more than 100 renowned wordless picture books, called "Silent Books: Final Destination Lampedusa" has been on tour around the world. After stops in Italy, Mexico and Austria, the exhibit travelled to Edmonton and Vancouver. And from November 2nd to December 11th, this exhibit will be at North York Central Library.
Everyone is invited to the Toronto launch where Deborah Soria, the Silent Books Project Director from Italy, will talk about IBBY's work with the children of Lampedusa:
Silent Books: Final Destination Lampedusa
Monday, November 2, 2015
Reception 6:30 pm; Launch 7:00 pm
North York Central Library, Auditorium
5120 Yonge Street (north of Sheppard Avenue)
All are welcome
Come see beautiful illustrations and stories from around the world! And stay tuned for an upcoming blog post that takes a closer look at wordless books for children and highlights some of the most outstanding ones out there.