The Need for Internationalism

Exposure to children's literature from around the world has the potential to address three issues:

The Danger of the Single Story

In this 2009 TED talk, novelist Chimamanda Adichie, who grew up in Nigeria, argues that a single story, especially one told over and over, makes a stereotype - and how vulnerable children are to that danger.  The problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete.  The single story robs people of dignity -- it emphasizes how we are different, rather than how we are similar.  Children need a balance of stories.

The Danger of the Single Story

Empathetic Civilisation

Jeremy Rifkin in his book, The Empathetic Civilisation, makes the argument that we need to expand our sense of belonging from the nation-state to global identification.

"Social scientists, in turn, are beginning to reexamine human history from an empathic lens and, in the process, discovering previously hidden strands of the human narrative which suggests that human evolution is measured not only by the expansion of power over nature, but also by the intensification and extension of empathy to more diverse others across broader temporal and spatial domains. The growing scientific evidence that we are a fundamentally empathic species has profound and far-reaching consequences for society, and may well determine our fate as a species."

Quote source

See this video of his lecture at the Royal Society for the Arts (2010) -- or better yet, watch this animated visualization of his talk:

The Empathetic Civilisation talk -- illustrated

Books as Bridges of Peace and Understanding

IBBY (The International Board on Books for Young People) was started after World War II in the hope that children who came to understand about other cultures would be less likely to support wars in the future.

"IBBY’s founder, Jella Lepman, believed that books could build bridges of understanding and peace between people.  Because of this strongly held belief, she created IBBY as an international organization that would bring children together by means of books. She did this because she was convinced that the German children she saw after the war needed not only food, medicine, clothes or shelter, but also books.  Good books, literature, and especially books from around the world.  They needed to know what all good readers know:  you are not alone; others have experiences, feelings, and needs just like you do, and there is a whole world out there you know nothing about.  And that world is not what you thought, it is more like the world you will find in all the wonderful books....

IBBY believes that the best way for this to happen is through access to the very best literature for children – wonderfully written and beautifully illustrated books that tell the truth of children’s lives.  But the real emphasis is on making sure children everywhere have access to books about their own lives, published in their own countries.  The governing metaphor for this new emphasis is that children need books that are mirrors and books that are windows.  When using the metaphor of mirrors, we think of books in which we can see ourselves, our own lives, our own experiences, hear our own names, and see our own towns and streets.  If you look in the mirror and don’t see yourself – are you a kind of monster, a vampire perhaps!  And this engenders self-doubt: who am I if I am not worthy of being written about?  But also, as Jella Lepman taught us, we need books that are windows – ones that open onto the world and let us know how other people live, that they have the same human feelings and emotions as we do.  Of course, one child’s mirror is another’s window and
vice versa, which brings IBBY back full circle to the idea that books can build bridges of understanding between people. "

Here are links to a few of the national sections.