Have you heard? September is World Kid Lit Month, and 2020 was the most successful so far, with record numbers sharing reading suggestions and shelfies with the hashtag #WorldKidLitMonth.
Launched as a grassroots social media initiative in 2016, World Kid Lit Month is a time to celebrate world literature for children and teens, especially fiction, nonfiction and poetry translated to English from other languages. It creates a space to discuss why we should look beyond the books published in our own country and also how to find books first published elsewhere.
There are countless reasons to explore world literature, and this year the following four themes prompted lots of engagement.
Books are a discount ticket to everywhere,* and this reason for global reading was more compelling than ever during the 2020 Covid-19 lockdown when physical travel grinded to a halt. #WorldKidLitMonth aims to open up the world to readers who want to choose a country and fly there by book, be it a picture book from Slovenia or a YA novel from Brazil.
The social media buzz of September offered a whirlwind of book tips for the translation hungry. But for those who like to tour the globe at a more leisurely pace throughout the year, there are many places where you can find out translated children’s and YA books:
- Global Literature in Libraries Initiative (GLLI) publishes reviews every Wednesday: #WorldKidLitWednesday
- Outside in World publishes a monthly round-up of book reviews
- World Kid Lit blog is active all year round and is a rich hub of resources; you can search for books by publisher, by region of the world, or by source language or country
- Planet Picture Book aims to review picture books from every country of the world
If you’re new to reading in translation, the perfect place to start is the lists of prizewinners and honorees of the (Mildred L.) Batchelder Prize, awarded annually by the ALSC, and the GLLI Translated YA Book Prize.
Diversity in publishing and reading
World Kid Lit Month exists to assert translated literature as a topic within the broader discussion of diversity and inclusion in children’s publishing, but also to improve the ethnic and linguistic diversity within what is translated.
Readers of literature for young people in translation also often remark on the richness of genres and the blurring of age categorizations, compared with the sometimes more rigid categories in the English-reading world. Picture books for older readers dealing with mature themes such as bereavement and mental health, graphic novels for all ages, and books that blend fiction and non-fiction: translated literature offers surprises that can tempt even reluctant readers to try something different.
There are many websites and initiatives that highlight US publications set in other countries or non-fiction books about other cultures, and indeed diverse writing by authors in English from other countries, but World Kid Lit Month aims to make the case for reading books in English translation by authors who don’t themselves write in English. Given that only about 5% of the world’s population has English as a first language, including translated books in our reading diet opens up a window to a much wider world.
Global reading for a global outlook
There is so much potential for translated books to play a part in opening young people’s minds to global perspectives. It’s not only a matter of what we read that makes a difference, but also the very fact that we choose to read authors who have lived experience of societies other than our own.
When we include books from beyond our shores and translated from other languages on our children’s bookshelves, in our libraries and classrooms, then we take the first step to demonstrating the value of listening to those in other communities, those who see the world from another vantage point, and to collaborating beyond and across language barriers – all the more important in a time of pandemic and global crises.
Found in translation
All too often overlooked, translation is a form of co-authorship, an artistic craft and a life tool that we are keen to demystify and celebrate during World Kid Lit Month, and indeed all year round in the World Kid Lit community.
With interviews, book reviews and panel discussions considering the creative choices involved in the collaborative process of translation, World Kid Lit Month is an opportunity to explore the superpower that is bilingualism – something that can be empowering for young people once they see the broad range of applications for their language skills in the creative arts and other industries.
Become a World Kid Lit champion
This year, we had more librarians joining the discussion than ever before, posting ‘shelfie’ pictures and mini reviews of the translated YA and children’s titles on their shelves. Find out here how to get involved, whether it’s reviewing books as part of the #WorldKidLitMonth challenge, or gearing up for a celebration of World Kid Lit Month 2021 at your library or school.
Bon voyage, wherever your reading takes you!
Today’s guest blogger is Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp. Ruth is a literary translator from Russian, German and Arabic into English, who has translated children’s and YA books from Germany, Morocco, Palestine, Russia, Switzerland and Syria. Ruth is co-editor of three blogs about international children’s writing: World Kid Lit blog (co-editor Claire Storey), Russian Kid Lit blog, and ArabKidLitNow.
Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.