Helping to establish high standards of quality in children’s books is a role that the International Board of Books for Young People (IBBY) performs very well. Much of this effort revolves around its biennial Hans Christian Andersen Award (HCAA). In China, IBBY has authorized Anhui Children’s Publishing House to produce a series of books featuring HCAA winners. At exhibitions showcasing HCAA illustrators, each stop—in cities such as Beijing, Hangzhou, Shanghai, and Shenzhen—drew big crowds.
“With each HCAA work that is translated into Chinese and shown to the public, the public’s exposure to Chinese authors and illustrators widens and their understanding of the high standards of quality in creating children’s books increases,” says Zhang Mingzhou, the current IBBY president and the first person from China to be elected to lead the 66-year-old nonprofit organization. “These translations will inspire Chinese publishers, authors, and illustrators to elevate the quality and creativity of their works and to spark the imaginations of Chinese children and the next generation of authors and illustrators.”
In recent years, IBBY has successfully forged collaborations between the Chinese creative community and overseas authors and illustrators. Some of the East-West picture book collaborations include Cao Wenxuan’s A Feather with Brazilian illustrator and fellow HCAA winner Roger Mello; Belgian writer Wally De Doncker’s Billie’s Factory with illustrator Xu Kaiyun; and Xue Tao’s Across the River with Russian illustrator Anastasia Arkhipova. “Increasingly, overseas publishers are seeing China not only as a rights-buying market but also as a major source of new works and emerging talents,” Zhang says.
Reading promotion, another major IBBY activity, reached a new milestone in China last September with the announcement of the IBBY-iRead Outstanding Reading Promoter Award. The award acknowledged the contribution made by the Shenzhen-based iRead Foundation for its reading promotions across China in the past decade as well as the foundation’s pledge of CNY 1.2 million ($173,000) biennially for the next 20 years toward the award. “This award is about inspiring lasting commitment to the cause of reading promotion—not only across China but also around the globe,” Zhang says. “We want to encourage more individuals, organizations, and government bodies to join us in promoting reading among children as well as in providing access to quality books, talks, and research related to picture books.”
IBBY has been instrumental in influencing and helping countries, including China, develop their children’s book industry, Zhang says. “Their progress, in turn, supports various IBBY initiatives aimed at bringing books and children together, upholding the right of every child to become a reader, and ensuring access to quality children’s literature around the world.”