In the months since Russia invaded Ukraine, the international publishing community has come together with a number of initiatives aimed at offering support to children’s authors, publishers, and aid organizations. Here, we continue to cover these ongoing efforts.
When Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Poland’s Fundacja Powszechnego Czytania (Universal Reading Foundation) rallied Polish publishers and their international colleagues in an emergency effort to get Ukrainian-language books to children in Poland. Now three months in, the effort has shifted from an emergency operation to a long-term initiative involving multiple partners. According to recent UN estimates, 14 million Ukrainians have fled their homes as a result of the war. It’s estimated that there are currently 200,000 Ukrainian refugee children in Poland—double the number in the country in mid-March. Tens of thousands have settled in other European countries, including more than 300,000 in Romania, 280,000 in Germany, and more than 200,000 in Moldova.
Earlier this month, the Foundation announced a grant program to offer support for Ukrainian publishers to keep them afloat during the war. With $150,000 in available funds, the program provides Ukrainian publishers with in-kind printing and distribution services provided by Polish businesses, including InPost, one of the country’s major delivery companies. Foundation director Maria Deskur said the organization has received 50 applications and will be announcing the awards June 6. In a press release about the program, Deskur said, “We want to support the readership in Ukraine because it is the foundation of well-functioning open democracies, the basis for building a strong and innovative economy.”
U.K.-based charity Book Aid International is donating more than 10,000 books to the Foundation. The donation received financial backing from publishers including Scholastic, Oxford University Press, and Green Bean Books. “When conflict strikes, books offer the chance to find hope and to continue to learn even while fleeing war,” Book Aid International’s executive director told the Bookseller. “We think it is vital to support The Universal Reading Foundation’s important work at this incredibly difficult time. We could not send a single book without the support of publishers that donate these wonderful, brand new books to our charity.” The books have arrived at the Polish-Ukrainian border and are ready for distribution, Deskur said. The effort is an extension Book Aid International’s work providing books to refugee camps in countries including Kenya, Uganda, and Ethiopia.
U.S.-based language assessment company Avant Assessment and independent children’s publisher Linguacious are supporting the Foundation and the Polish Book Institute with a donation of 1,500 copies dual Ukrainian-English language book Dylan’s Birthday Present / Подарунок Ділану на день народження by Victor D.O. Santos. Santos’s wife is Ukrainian and her parents had to flee the country when the war broke out. “By seeing their own language and the Ukrainian flag represented in the story in the book, I hope Ukrainian children will feel prouder than ever to be Ukrainian,” the author said.
More International Partnerships
The Federation of European Publishers is raising funds to print and distribute books to Ukrainian refugee children throughout Europe. The initiative, which was introduced at the Bologna Book Fair, has already printed 6,000 books. The campaign has received the support of Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska. At the Turin Book Fair (which ends on May 24), the Federation raised funds and awareness about the effort.
More than 6,000 Ukrainian refugee children have been resettled in the U.K. A partnership between U.K. charity Give a Book (an affiliate of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library), and Penguin Random House UK will provide 200 refugee children in London with a free book each month until they reach the age of five. The program relies on Give a Book’s network of partner schools and community services for refugees in the city and the organization’s existing partnership with Penguin, the U.K. supplier for the Imagination Library. Children will receive high quality, age-appropriate books. “In our work we see again and again the comfort that a good book and shared reading can provide,” said Victoria Gray, executive director of Give a Book.
Also in the U.K., charity Bookmark is raising funds for the Bookmark Box for Ukraine to be distributed to refugee children arriving in the U.K. The box is aimed at welcoming children and offering them an introduction to the new culture they will encounter in the country. The box contains a tablet with [both Ukrainian and English books, apps for language and literacy, and physical books and activities. Bookmark is a teacher-led charity focused on promoting literacy.
Libraries Lend Support
The American Library Association partnered with Ukrainian Library Association to create the [ALA Ukraine Library Relief Fund to support the Ukrainian library community, which has been devastated by the war. Librarians in Ukraine have kept libraries open when possible and created pop-up libraries in shelters, including the Kharkiv subway system where families were living. Since the war broke out, libraries have been a source of connection for displaced people and library staff have struggled to keep up with demand for computer time. The Relief Fund will go toward the purchase of computers, software, material repairs to libraries such as shattered windows and damaged roofs, and relief funds for displaced library staff.
In Norway, the University of Stavanger has created a digital library for Ukrainian refugee children through its International Collective of Research and Design in Digital Children’s Books program. The program is working with volunteer translators and India-based Pratham Books and its digital library Storyweaver to translate books in a variety of languages into Ukrainian, and make them digitally available to educators working with Ukrainian refugee children in any country.
Authors and Illustrators Donate Work
In addition to donating books, Universal Reading Foundation is working on creating original content. A dual Ukrainian-English language anthology titled The Book Against War is in the works. The collection includes stories donated by 50 Polish children’s writers and authors. Author-illustrator Sophie Blackall—who donated the original illustration that the Foundation has used for its fundraising efforts—has donated additional illustrations. Developed in consultation with a psychologist who worked with survivors of the war in the former Yugoslavia, the book will be published in both Ukrainian and English and is expected to be available this summer.
Independent publisher Little Lambda Books created a special edition of its title One Equals Many by Sonny Dean, with all proceeds going to United National Crisis Relief Ukraine. We Stand with Ukraine: One Equals Many emphasizes the power of voting and collective action to change the world.