Mexico, Let’s Read

By Karla Ortiz

Can a love of reading help lead the way to world peace? A Swiss organization, The International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY), was founded in the aftermath of World War II on that very idea, that promoting reading in children would help bring peace to the world. The organization has spread to 76 countries worldwide, including a branch in Mexico. Since 1979, IBBY Mexico has been bringing Spanish-language books, community libraries, child-oriented book guides, reading-friendly spaces, adapted books for children with special needs, and much more to Mexican children and their families.

On June 2, IBBY Mexico held a fundraiser to help bring more of these initiatives to Mexican children, and chose San Miguel de Allende as the site for the sale of a private jewelry collection created by designer Claudia Suinaga, the proceeds of which will go to IBBY Mexico.

IBBY Mexico originally started as a completely unrelated organization, the Mexican Association for the Promotion of Children’s and Young People’s Books. It was founded during a time in Mexico when there were very few books for children and young people, and those that existed were very expensive or poorly translated. One of its earliest acts was to found the International Children’s and Young People’s Book Fair. A year later, they decided to associate themselves with IBBY International, which organized subsequent years of the book fair until the fourth year had grown so much that it passed into the hands of the Secretariat de Educacion Publica (the Public Education Secretariat), known as SEP. The fair is in its thirty-eighth year in 2018 and now takes place annually in Mexico City.

It took until 2008 for the organization to take on the IBBY name, (when they were renamed IBBY México/A Leer, which means “Let’s Read”). But the two organizations had been working together for years already, sharing spaces and programs wherever they could find a location until 2012, when thanks to the generosity of the Alfredo Harp Helú Foundation, IBBY Mexico/A Leer moved to the stately Casa de la Araucaria, in Mexico City’s colonia Mixcoac.

IBBY Mexico’s mission is to participate in the construction of an engaged society that forms readers and reading communities to develop a reflective and critical populace. It manages and promotes spaces for dialogue and meetings between people involved in creating and disseminating books and reading to children. Their belief system can be seen at work in their 157 community libraries in 24 states, which feature 250–300 Spanish-language books for children. These are libraries where children are not afraid to play, laugh, and make as much noise as they want. Children are not forced to learn to read before they are taught a taste for reading. They develop this taste for reading with read-aloud sessions, discussing stories with children individually or in groups. There are also mediators who help children and young people interact with books. More advanced children can participate in writing activities or other book-related activities that promote artistic expression.

In an IBBY library, nobody tells the young patrons which books to read. The organization promotes children finding books they enjoy, based on what the children themselves believe is a book’s merits. To that end, the organization produces the Children’s and Young People’s Book Guide each year, in which some of the judges involved in choosing the books to include are children themselves. The others are analysts from a reading committee. The well-known guide attracts all the major publishers with Spanish-language children’s books to submit their books in the hopes of being included. This guide is available online at their website www.ibbymexico.org.mx.

IBBY México has 29,837 copies in its children’s and youth library and a wealth of programs and workshops for all ages. They teach grandparents how to tell stories to children. Their Imaginalee program promotes digital reading. They also have worked hard to accommodate children with special needs: The Biblioteca BS is an inclusive space located at their headquarters in Mexico City with services and materials for special needs users. They also have a facility for working with blind, deaf, and autistic children as well as with children from indigenous communities, featuring 600 Braille titles, video books in Mexican Sign Language, audio books, as well as children’s books in indigenous languages.

One of IBBY Mexico’s strengths is in the alliances it has generated between themselves and other institutions to help them implement projects. During the year, they hold two fundraising events. One is the “Put Yourself in Their Shoes” fundraiser, in which white ceramic tennis shoes were painted by 30 artists and then sold, with proceeds going to blind, deaf, and autistic children. And of course, there was the private jewelry sale.

Bruno Newman, president of IBBY Mexico and founder of the Museum of the Object of the Object, who came up with the idea for the fundraiser, invited Suinaga to create unique and eccentric pieces for the sale.

He says he chose to hold the sale in San Miguel because he felt that people here have a different perception of art. He felt critics could better investigate the meaning of the objects and pieces that built the exhibition.

 

 

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