By JOHN Y. COLE
More than 40 organizations participated in the Center for the Book's annual reading promotion partners' exchange at the Library of Congress in March.
Participants were reminded that the Center for the Book's popular Web site at www.loc.gov/cfbook/ provides information about the activities of the affiliated state centers for the book as well as the national center's reading promotion partners.
The Center for the Book's reading partnership network formally started in 1987 when the center launched "The Year of the Reader," the first in a series of national reading promotion campaigns that continued for more than a decade. Since then the network has grown to include 80 reading promotion partners.
At the March meeting, four of the organizations that joined the network during the past year discussed their programs and activities.
Bruce Curtis, co-founder of BrailleInk (www.brailleink.org), explained his organization's purpose: "We're a new nonprofit that publishes existing books in a new format, one that adds braille to a book's existing text and illustrations. This makes the books a lot easier to share between print and braille readers, since each word can be read simultaneously in print and braille. It also shows sighted kids what braille is like." Curtis, who displayed copies of BrailleInk's first two books ("The Dot" and "Guess How Much I Love You"), said he welcomed new partners that could help him publicize and distribute his firm's books.
Like BrailleInk, Hoopoe Books also promotes unique books for children. Founded in 1998 as an imprint of the nonprofit Institute for the Study of Human Knowledge, Hoopoe Books focuses on publishing traditional children's stories from Afghanistan.
"Most of the stories are more than 1,000 years old and well known in Central Asia and throughout the Middle East," said Dan Sperling. "They are acknowledged by a growing number of educators and psychologists as useful tools in both developing higher-level thinking skills and, of course, in improving understanding of an important traditional culture."
Through its Share Literacy Program (www.shareliteracy.org), Hoopoe Books has partnered with other organizations to give books away to children in low-income areas.
Curtis Sandberg, vice president for exhibitions at Meridian International Center in Washington, D.C. (www.meridian.org/ARTS/Children/), described a new exhibit developed in cooperation with the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. "This Is Our Land: Discovering America and the World Through Original Illustrations from Children's Books" includes 80 original artworks by well-known illustrators depicting pastimes and natural wonders from all 50 states, together with images of life in 20 other nations. The exhibit, which was developed with help from several of the state centers for the book, state librarians and regional arts councils, recently debuted at Meridian's Cafritz Galleries in Washington, and will travel to 10 sites throughout the United States during the next two years. A colorful teacher's guide has been created for the tour, as has an innovative collection of artistic maps intended to encourage young people to learn more about this country and the world.
The Lubuto Library Project (www.lubuto.org) was established in 2005 to build libraries (buildings and collections) for homeless and at-risk children in sub-Saharan Africa, many of whom are orphaned and infected with HIV/AIDS. Founder and director Jane Kinney Myers explained that the project's initial efforts are in Zambia, but that it is making plans to expand into other countries as well.
"This is a clear, direct, effective effort to open the larger world to younger people living in a harsh reality in which formal education is mostly beyond reach," she said. "We are creating new institutions—libraries—to provide a safe place to read or to learn to read."
The book collections are designed to appeal to a wide range of ages, interests and reading abilities. Donated books are collected and sorted by Washington-area middle and high school students and shipped to Africa. New partnerships are needed and being developed to support the project, she noted. For example, Politics & Prose Bookstore in Washington gives a 20 percent discount on all books that are purchased for donation to Lubuto libraries.
John Y. Cole is director of the Center for the Book.