Yesterday was the first day of the 35th IBBY International Congress Auckland. Like their beautiful website, the IBBY Congress was organized and decorated impeccably. Over 500 attendees and VIPs from all around the world were in attendance, a feat for a country as far away from everything as New Zealand.
The day began with a special Maori themed opening, the ancient greeting of the indigenous people of New Zealand. It was a pleasure to be able to hear the horn being sounded, the women sing in greeting, and watch the entire performance. A primary school also performed later, showing five different kinds of dance and song from the five main cultures of NZ.
Three authors also presented: Joy Cowley of “Mrs. Wishy Washy” an apparently very famous book in NZ, Kate De Goldi, and Witi Ihimaera whom have all made huge contributions in the field of children’s literature. Also, there was a unique Keynote Panel with American author, Leonard Marcus, and British book reviewer, Julia Ecccleshare, titled There is No Such Thing as a Children’s Book. They discussed the differences between American and English markets, why dystopian literature may be popular to YA in a world where adults no longer seem able to control what is going on, how children’s books are often viewed in the lens of whether they are useful rather than enjoyable, and an author’s need to market themselves in the modern world.
Several sessions played throughout the day, twelve in total. The sessions I chose to listen to were very well attended as well, with nearly every seat in the room taken! I was particularly impressed by the session on Children’s Literature in Education Conceptual Development, where Ms. Joanne Purcell of Australia discussed how some authors helped children thinking about thinking itself.
Finally, the day ended with the presentation of the IBBY – Asahi Reading Promotion Awards, going to excellent initiatives in Laos and Iran. The winning initiatives presented their work, and it was very eye – opening. Though their presentations lasted no longer than 10 minutes each, the long and difficult process of their work was clear. In less privileged environments with often illiterate parents and little value given to education, creating a love for reading is a slow uphill journey.
To an equally exciting rest of the conference!