Bodour Al Qasimi, President of the International Publishers Association (IPA), and Founder and Chairperson of Kalimat Foundation (KF), reiterated the vital role of books in promoting cross-cultural understanding and the values of peace, love and justice worldwide. She pointed out that now more than ever, communities need to forge a stronger connection with the world of books that will help to unveil the common bonds of humanity, no matter how dissimilar we may feel we are from others around the world, and that will lead to the creation of an environment that enjoys more understanding, harmony, stability and prosperity.
This came during an event organised by KF at the Romanioly Elementary School, Bologna, Italy, on the sidelines of its participation in the recently concluded Bologna Children’s Book Fair (BCBF) 2022, where Sharjah was celebrated as the Guest of Honour, in recognition of the emirate’s leading role in strengthening relations with various societies and cultures on a common human foundation.
Enabling children worldwide better access to books and knowledge requires strategic collaboration, emphasised Bodour Al Qasimi, noting that partnerships with entities in humanitarian, cultural and educational sectors were key to implementing initiatives targeting children, and especially those who do not have access to schooling and libraries. She added that books are not only a source of learning and entertainment, but also tools that boost self-confidence in children and enable them to believe in their capabilities to create a successful future.
As part of its ‘Pledge a Library’ initiative, KF offered the elementary school a 100-book mobile library comprising a selection of Arabic and Arabic-Italian titles, which was gifted to the students by renowned Italian children’s book writer Elisabetta Dami – creator of the Geronimo Stilton children’s book series. The move aims to enrich the school’s library with new literary sources.
One of the activities organised at the school was a storytelling session that witnessed Bodour Al Qasimi and Elisabetta Dami reading Kalimat Group’s Close to Home story in Arabic and Italian to the young listeners.
The Foundation also highlighted its Pledge a Library initiative, which has donated 2,000 Arabic and bilingual Arabic- Italian books of diverse genres and interests and 13 libraries. Of those, 11 libraries were donated in 2019 and two more in 2022 across Italy, targeting young Arab immigrants and refugees in the country.
Amna Al Mazmi, Director of KF, noted that strengthening friendships with people suffering from the trauma of displacement via books was part of the non-profit’s strategy to support young Arab refugees cut off from their home and nation and help them learn and appreciate their mother tongue and their culture while they integrate with their host communities. She added that the Foundation’s efforts are geared towards building a generation whose achievements will benefit all humanity.
The foundation’s pavilion at BCBF 2022 welcomed children’s book professionals, librarians and officials from educational, cultural and humanitarian entities to learn more about its mission, goals and programmes. Visitors took the opportunity to explore ways to contribute to the Foundation’s efforts in supporting children and young people who lack access to schools and libraries in their countries, and emphasised that protecting children and educating them is the vision of a shared global goal.
Since its establishment in 2016, KF has empowered 155,749 young readers in 25 countries across Asia, Africa, Europe, and South America through a series of initiatives to bring refugee children and young visitors of libraries closer to books, in line with its vision to uphold the rights of children in the affected communities to access books and help build an educated and aware Arab generation.