Joining the roster of annual children’s book events that have revised their formats in response to the global pandemic, World Kid Lit Month began this September as an entirely online initiative.
Established in 2016, this program is spearheaded by three industry veterans: Alexandra Buchler, translator and head of Literature Across Frontiers; Marcia Lynx Qualey, translator and editor of ArabLit.org; and Lawrence Schimel, a literary translator and bilingual author. “We are an all-volunteer team of people who are actively involved in children’s literature and are passionate about promoting kid lit in translation and encouraging more of it,” Schimel said.
The team is rounded out by a steering committee of translators which, in addition to Buchler and Schimel, includes Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp, co-editor of ArabKidLitNow! and RussianKidLit; Claire Storey; and Mohini Gupta, who manages the Mother Tongue Twisters multilingual digital platform. The diverse group hails from all over the world—Morocco, Delhi, Madrid and the U.K.—as do contributors to the program’s blog: from California, to the United Arab Emirates and Thailand.
Following the cancellation of the London and Bologna book fairs due to the pandemic, World Kid Lit Month’s organizers decided to create digital programming and launched two #WorldKidLit Live! events this month. “[They] are Zoom panels with key people in publishing and translation who can offer thoughts and advice to everyone with an internet connection and an interest in greater biblio-diversity for young readers,” Qualey said.
On September 2, more than 150 participants attended the first virtual panel, “Making KidLit Travel: How Translations Happen.” The discussion centered on what publishers look for in translated children’s literature, how market standards differ across regions, and how the challenges of the pandemic have impacted the world of children’s books. Speakers included Charlotte Ryland, director of the Stephen Spender Trust (U.K.); Shelley Tanaka, author and fiction editor at Groundwood Books (Canada); Radhika Menon, publishing director of Tulika Books (India); and Emma Wright, founder of the Emma Press (U.K.)
The second event, “Why Translate KidLit?,” will be held on September 30 and features translators from around the world, who will share their respective journeys, offer suggestions for improving the field, and explain how others can get involved with translated literature for young readers. The panel is comprised of Schimel (Spanish); Avery Fischer Udagawa (Japanese); Laura Watkinson (Dutch, Italian and German); and Sawad Hussain (Arabic). Qualey is the moderator for both sessions. Registration is open via Facebook.
While programming takes place in September, the group behind World Kid Lit Month is committed to providing year-round services for parents and teachers. The team compiles an annual list of children’s literature translated into English that is updated regularly. This year’s collection includes more than 150 titles searchable by country or language. “We have made sure to indicate which of this year’s new publications are available as e-books in case [parents] can’t get to the shops,” Storey said. “And if you need 10 minutes of peace and quiet, there’s also a blog post providing links to online book readings and story times.”