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Reflection: International Youth Literature Collection

On International Children’s Book Day, I attended a virtual event showcasing Alexander Library’s International Youth Literature Collection. The event was introduced by Dr. Marc Aronson, an Associate Professor in the Department of Library and Information Science and author of nonfiction books for children and teens. I took his course last semester about young adult literature. This class syllabus featured a number of young adult novels, including an English translation of the novel Nothing by Danish author Janne Teller. As a student in the MI program, it’s inspiring to see the work that my professors and classmates are doing outside of the classroom. 

The International Youth Literature Collection is, as the title suggests, a collection of children’s and YA (young adult) books from around the world. While some of these books were written in English, others have been translated from other languages. The collection also includes wordless picture books, called Silent Books. This collection will be useful to students enrolled in the MI program’s course on Children’s Literature, and it will also benefit other areas of study including language, education, and illustration. 

The event was held on International Children’s Book Day, which is Hans Christian Andersen’s birthday. The event included a tour of the LibGuide created by the students of the International Youth Literature Class of spring 2020. It’s an excellent compilation of resources relating to the collection and international youth literature as a whole. 

This tour was followed by picture book read-alouds from around the world. The books were read in the original language and accompanied by visuals of the English translation. The virtual nature of this event actually enhanced my experience as a viewer. There were seamless transitions from the real-time speaker to recordings of readers from different countries. It was a pleasure to hear different languages, see the different art styles, and listen to a Chilean folk song performed by a mother and daughter. 

International youth literature is essential to education and public libraries. We serve varied and diverse populations, and our content should reflect this. International literature showcases different cultures and world views. I hadn’t realized this until writing this blog post, but one of my favorite books from childhood is an English translation of a German picture book. The Rainbow Fish, written and illustrated by Marcus Pfister and translated into English by J. Alison James, tells the story of a fish covered in beautiful scales who decides to share them. This is a single example of the countless number of books that have been cherished by children around the world. As any of us who grew up reading already know, books are best when they’re shared. 


For more information on the International Youth Literature Collection, check out our previous blog post or view a  recording of the event.