A Visit with Doris Gebel about International Children’s Book Day

I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Doris Gebel, but we certainly share a love of children, the importance of sharing bookjoy, a belief that books can connect diverse children to other cultures, languages and countries. I’m a proud member of USBBY and am always inspired by the good work they do. I so hope that more and more schools and libraries will celebrate International Children’s Book Day on April 2 and that more teachers and librarians will join USBBY. This organization has steadily supported Día. ¡Gracias!

Let’s begin with an introduction.
DG: I am the Head of Youth Services at the Northport-East Northport Public Library in New York. I’ve taught Children’s Literature and International Children’s Literature at St. Joseph’s College and Children’s Literature at the Palmer School of Library and Information Science. I was privileged to serve on the 2003 Mildred L. Batchelder Award Committee and the 2006 Newbery Committee and as a long time member of USBBY was proud to edit the third annotated bibliography Crossing Boundaries with Children’s Books (Scarecrow, 2006). I am currently serving on the USBBY Board as President-elect.

1. Tell us about USBBY.
DG: USBBY serves as the U.S. national section of the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY), which was founded to promote international understanding and good will through books for children and teenagers. The organization, founded by Jella Lepman in 1953, aims to give children everywhere the opportunity to have access to books with high literary and artistic standards; to encourage the publication and distribution of quality children’s books, especially in developing countries; to provide support and training for those involved with children and children’s literature and to stimulate research and scholarly works in the field of children’s literature.

2. What is International Children’s Book Day? Tell us about this year’s celebration plans.
DG: Since 1967, on or around Hans Christian Andersen’s birthday, 2 April, International Children’s Book Day (ICBD) is celebrated to inspire a love of reading and to call attention to children’s books. Each year a National Section of IBBY sponsors the International Children’s Book Day creating a poster and inviting a prominent author of children’s books to write a message promoting reading. This year’s poster and message is available both on the USBBY webpage and the IBBY webpage and may be reproduced by anyone wanting to promote a love of reading. All types of celebrations around children’s books and other special events that may include encounters with authors and illustrators, writing competitions or announcements of book awards are encouraged. In an effort to increase awareness of International Children’s Book Day, USBBY has developed a webpage so that teachers, educators and librarians can share ideas for programs, lessons and activities in the home to encourage a love of reading and promote international understanding.

3. Do you see ICBD as a part of Día de los niños, Día de los libros’ emphasis of linking all children to books, languages, and cultures?
DG: Both El día de los niños/El día de los libros and International Children’s Book Day have similar and complementary goals: inspiring a love of reading and advocating for literacy, celebrating the cultural backgrounds of children the world over through literacy efforts. It is fitting that the month of April begins with International Children’s Book Day and culminates with El Día de los niños, Día de los libros. Pat Mora says it best with the phrase that she has coined — Bookjoy! Everyday is a good day to share books with children and it is our hope that these special days stimulate literacy efforts all year round.

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