Sheikha Bodour calls for action to close gaps in access to books for children worldwide - GulfToday

Sheikha Bodour calls for action to close gaps in access to books for children worldwide


Sheikha Bodour interacts with children at Expo Centre Sharjah. File / WAM

Jamil Khan, Senior Reporter

Education, in particular that of children, strikes a chord with Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi, President of the International Publishers Association (IPA).

She sees chldren as the barometer, the bellwether of the growth of literature. Unfortunately, many kids do not have access to books, and that is a cause for great concern. Books ignite the imagination of these youngsters.

However, there are stumbling blocks for kids who want to learn, and that comes in the form of conflict and war. Apart from this, poor digital infrastructure, absence of a strong library network and underdeveloped or non-existent publishing are some of the other principal reasons why many communities are without access to books.

Keeping this in mind, Sheikha Bodour has made a clarion call for fixing the loopholes in accessibility of books for children around the world, because literacy, she emphasises, has the power to change lives.

She was addressing a panel discussion hosted by the British charity Book Aid International during the online edition of the London Book Fair held from June 21 to July 1, 2021.

Sheikha Bodour said as a vital learning resource, books play a crucial role in developing language and critical thinking skills.

She was speaking at the session titled, ‘Closing the gap: Why access to books matters for children around the world.' Panel members at the session included Sarah Odedina, Editor-at-Large, Pushkin Children's Books, and co-founder of Accord Literary; Pam Dix, Chair, IBBY UK; Alison Tweed, Chief Executive, Book Aid International; and Sita Brahmachari, one of the most interesting and important voices in contemporary children’s literature who won the prestigious Waterstones Children’s Book Prize in 2011 for her debut novel, Artichoke Hearts.

At another panel discussion curated by Book Machine, Bodour Al Qasimi focuses on the issue of lifelong learning to address the lacuna of skills in the publishing sector.

She added that new business models were very vital to handle the rapid pace of development in the industry. Guidance provided by a mentor and sharing knowledge among peers are major learning mechanisms as it expands the big picture for team members, said Bodour, who was one of the four influential publishing leaders on the panel at the session titled, ‘Leading the way in book publishing’.

The IPA President also called for working together based on respect, trust, and transparency to pave the way for creativity in the publishing industry, while adding that future hurdles can be addressed when publishers are able to create the right degree of balance between current market needs, emerging trends including technology, and risk taking.

Recently, Sheikha Bodour Bint Sultan Al Qasimi shared her belief in the indispensable value of the publishing industry for cultural, social, economic, and educational progress around the world, during the inaugural edition of BolognaBookPlus.

A new initiative, running in parallel with the Bologna Children’s Book Fair (BCBF) from 14th to 17th June, 2021, in its fully online format this year, BolognaBookPlus aims to reach a wider professional audience across the global publishing industry. Co-chairing the event with Richard Charkin, Founder of Mensch Publishing, the IPA President addressed the occasion of the IPA’s 125th anniversary as a major milestone to the publishers, leaders and professionals attending the conference, adding that publishing predates the IPA by several centuries, a reminder of how long the business has been around.

At the full-day conference, titled "Forging forward: The pandemic an interruption, or an opportunity to rethink", Sheikha Bodour noted that despite undergoing frequent disruptions, publishing has always adapted and evolved to remain a cornerstone of humanity’s cultural progress.

She emphasised the need to bolster and build the industry’s resistance to pressure and turn challenges into opportunities with the right mindset, skillset and toolset. Early in the day’s programme, Sheikha Bodour held a spotlight conversation with the multi-literary award winner, academic and public speaker, Elif Shafak, exploring key themes surrounding the speed and complexity of change in the global publishing industry and pathways to forging its secure future.

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