Leigh Turina is Lead Librarian for the IBBY Collection for Young People with Disabilities, which is held at Toronto Public Library in Canada. She took charge of this unique collection of books in 2014, when it was transferred from its original home in Norway.
Here Leigh offers a personal introduction to the collection, which highlights books from all over the world about and for children with disabilities.
Leigh can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As a children’s librarian in a large public library, I am often asked by teachers and parents for books to teach empathy and to demonstrate inclusiveness. I am fortunate to have an additional resource in my library – The International Board of Books for Young People (IBBY) Collection for Young People with Disabilities. This unique reference collection of books for and about children and teens with disabilities is located in Toronto Public Library at the North York Central Library Children’s Department. Can’t come in person to research and read these wonderful books? Then visit online at www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/ibby
What are we and how did we get started? After WWII, journalist Jella Lepman was asked to help women and children in Germany. While others worried about shelter, food and clothing, Jella worried about the restoration of their minds and hearts. What to do? Of course, give them books to read; but alas, there were few left in a country emerging from war.
Working with no budget but much enthusiasm, Jella decided to bring picture books from other countries to the children. Not only did she want to bring stories, but she wanted children to realize that there were other children just like them in other places. They might look different or speak different languages, but inside, where it mattered, they were the same.
This was the beginning of the International Board on Books for Young People and those books that were first donated to the project from publishers in 23 countries became the basis of the International Youth Library in Munich. And thus began the IBBY custom of highlighting books of quality from their national sections on a biennial basis to create an honours list.
Fast forward to the International Year of the Disabled in 1981… Tordis Ørjasæter, a professor for special education teachers in Norway, urged IBBY to highlight books for and about children and teens with disabilities. The IBBY Board agreed and began to collect best examples from the national sections. In fact, the biennial request has just gone out to national sections for submissions to the 2017 Outstanding List.
Now, from its first home in Norway, the IBBY Collection for Young People with Disabilities has moved to Toronto, Canada, with over 4,000 books in more than 40 different languages. For many users, the most fascinating books are the ones in specialized formats which offer access to all children regardless of their disability, whether they use:
picture communication systems,
unique formats for people with learning, developmental or cognitive disabilities,
simplified concepts and text.
Readers look at their reflections in mirrors, peer through windows into other worlds and stride through doors to enter the lives of characters in the books of another category: portrayals of disability. Whether a picture book or a novel, these books provide opportunities for real growth in understanding and empathy with others.
As the IBBY Collection Lead Librarian, it is my job to share the books with our users, whether they are children or young adults, families, researchers or teachers. My favourites keep changing but some current ones are:
てんじつき さわるえほん さわるめいろ (Tenji tsuki sawaru ehon: Sawaru meiro)
English title: Touch Picture Book with Braille: Mazes by Touch
designed by Junko Murayama
(Japan: Shogakukan, 2012)
This beautiful book is designed to teach sighted and blind users how to read Braille by following a Braille line through the maze. From my voice of experience…the more decorative and elaborate the design, the harder the maze!
Everyone is different, and in that way, we are alike. The author/illustrator has illustrated the story with painted boxes, stacked together to create different characters, including an alien. If your mind is exploding with the possibility of using this craft along with children, turn to the back of the book for suggestions.
My current first choice for preschool teachers searching for picture books with diversity and inclusiveness. UK readers will be familiar with Asquith’s illustrations which include a variety of religions, nationalities, ages, genders and abilities. If only all children could grow up reading and poring over these pictures.
Moa åker på lager (English title: Moa Goes to Camp)
written by Ann Gomér, illustrated by Cecilia Höglund
(Sweden: Landskrona Vision, 2013)
Moa is a 15-year-old with pink hair and a zest for life. Does it matter that she has Down syndrome? Swedish text is in large bold print and sign language.
A rebel in war-torn Sierra Leone chops off Mariatu’s hands, as a warning to others. This is her powerful recount of her way out to Canada and a different life.
Each visit to the IBBY Collection is unique. We try to answer user needs with an individual meeting and tour, whether they are an international visitor; a young adult seeking examples so that she can write her own story; or children with autism. People are also encouraged to email questions to: email@example.com
Here are some examples of ways which we have reached out to users:
A popular way to introduce the IBBY Collection to school children is to offer a tactile bookmaking workshop along with a talk.
At the bottom of the illustration above, children have created their own tactile version of The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.
Children on class visits are often asked to close their eyes and try to dial their home phone numbers in this cell phone exercise. This helps creates an awareness of differing abilities.
Tactile stories make books accessible to all readers.
IBBY Collection for Young People with Disabilities
Toronto Public Library