The World Library and Information Congress 2023 (WLIC) Satellite hosted by IFLA’s Library Services for Children & Young Adults (C&YA) and Literacy and Reading (LITREAD) Sections saw a vibrant gathering of professionals dedicated to fostering a love for reading among young people. Titled “Journeys into Reading,” this satellite event, co-organized by the Dutch reading Foundation, was held at The Hague at KB, National Library and featured a series of insightful presentations that delved into innovative approaches, challenges, and successes in encouraging our very youngest to embark on the lifelong adventure of literacy and reading.

This event was a testament to the global commitment to nurturing young readers and guiding them on their journeys into the world of books. From embracing diversity in collections to harnessing the potential of digital reading, the presentations showcased the enduring significance of libraries in shaping the future of our young generations through the power of reading.

The chair Marianne Martens Ph.D. (Professor in Kent State University’s School of Information, and also the Chair of IFLA Libraries for Children and Young Adults Section) welcomed Keynote speaker Helen Limon Ph.D (lecturer in European Studies at The Hague University of Applied Sciences). Prior to returning to the Netherlands in 2020, Helen was a Research Associate at Newcastle University in the Creative Writing Research Department, NCLA. Her Ph.D. project looked at portrayals of mothering in contemporary children’s fiction and her thesis included a novel for children, Om Shanti Babe, that won the 2015 Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Book Award. As a member of the EU funded European Literacy Network she is also associated with IBBY. Most recently, she spoke at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair on representations of sexuality in children’s books. Dr. Limon’s diverse background in literature and her exploration of contemporary children’s fiction provided a unique perspective on the power of storytelling. Her engaging presentation set the tone for the day’s discussions, followed by a dynamic Q&A session. Dr Limon spoke on the significance of childhood experiences of war and refugee status in picture books, and now a project to capture these stories is underway.

Paula Kelly Paull (Australia), Ambassador, Coach and Facilitator – Libraries, Literacy & Learning, lead a series of presentations from across the globe, sharing Early Literacy Success Stories. Providing an overview of her own action research project “Books for Baby and me” based on the work of Prof Joe Sparling’s Abecedarian Approach, the scene was set for the importance of engaging our very youngest of children in literacy and embracing a love of books and reading.

Library professionals from around the world took the stage to share their remarkable success stories in early literacy interventions. Speakers highlighted innovative approaches to promote literacy among young readers: Dr. Sarah Evans (United States), Assistant Professor in the College of Information at University of North Texas; Shari Werb (United States), Director of Learning, Literacy and Engagement at Library of Congress, Washington DC;  Sevgi Arıoğlu (Türkiye), Library Manager at the Koç School;  Emilie Bettega (France), National Library of France (BnF) and Dr. Carolynn Rankin (United Kingdom), Ph.D., Associate Lecturer, School of Education at University of Ulster and Adjunct Senior Lecturer, School of Information Studies at Charles Sturt University;  Benjamin Scheffler (Germany), Director of the Children’s & Young Adults’ Library, Berlin and Yuko Nagano (Japan), International Library of Children’s Literature, (National Diet Library), Tokyo all provided significant insights in the approaches of early intervention and library support.

A visit to the Children’s Literature Museum Visit at the National Library was absolute treat and inspired all to want to crawl through the “Very Hungry Caterpillar” and discover all manner of children’s books with highly interactive and engaging installations. Perhaps the most intriguing was the Backstreet installation for teenagers – providing a way into books through the mysteries and fun of curated rooms – from a tattoo parlour to the back of a limousine (for a bit of romance), a Mexican cantina, a gambling den and more! The experience provided a way of recommended titles to young people following their interest and experiences, recording their responses via wearable devices. The visit provided valuable insights into interactive exhibits and resources that promote a love for reading, books and stories among young visitors and families.

A vibrant panel discussion ensued (once all were reluctantly teased out of the Museum), featuring the Netherlands own Bookstart and other book gifting programmes moderated by Daan Beeke, specialist in secondary education at the Reading Foundation and active in EURead – Reading network – Global Network for Early Years Book Gifting. Annie Everall from Authors Aloud (UK) and Adriaan Langendonk (Manager Reading promotion Programs at The Reading Foundation and KB) first gave presentations about Bookstart (Annie about the history of the British Bookstart, Adriaan about The Dutch approach of the Bookstart – BoekStart- program). After that they  joined panellists Claire Stuckey (IBBY Australia) and Italian librarian Antonella Lamberti providing their perspectives on the overall positive impacts of these programs.

In closing the day, the Dutch Children’s Book Laureate (Reading Ambassador) book illustrator Martijn van der Linden & writer Maranke Rinck presented a highly entertaining overview of their work for children including well-known and very popular “Popcorn Bob” series. They captivated the audience and added a touch of artistic inspiration to the event, demonstrating how characters with problems to solve and a story to tell, grasp the imaginations of young readers. Journeys into Reading” at the 2023 WLIC satellite was a resounding success, with Marianne Martens and Paula Kelly Paull skillfully guiding participants through a day filled with enriching discussions, innovative ideas, and creative inspiration—all within the splendid setting of The Hague at the National Library. This event reaffirmed the central role of libraries in shaping the future of young generations through the magic of reading. The National Library (at The Hague) provided a fitting and inspiring backdrop for this important gathering of professionals committed to the cause of nurturing young readers.

Community Building Reading Initiatives: Building Connections and Communities

Following the exciting “Journeys into Reading” Satellite, at the IFLA World Congress itself, the Literacy and Reading Standing Committee delivered a session on Community Building Reading initiatives. The crucial role of reading initiatives in community building was explored highlighting their ability to promote social and cultural inclusion, strengthen communities, enhance well-being, and bring people together in diverse ways.

Three panel members from diverse parts of the world shared and discussed their reading initiatives and different experiences and demonstrated how these reading initiatives build connections and communities. This thematic thread ran through various presentations and activities, highlighting the transformative power of reading.

Kees Broekhof (Sardes Foundation, Netherlands) promotes the unique positioning of libraries in playing a central role in the lives of people, because, unlike most other institutions, they cater for all age groups. In his keynote lecture, Kees explored the role and position of libraries in local communities and in local policy, focusing in particular on the impact libraries can have on the development of language as a foundational skill and as an aspect of social integration and cohesion. Using developments in the Netherlands as an example, he discussed the importance of quality in library expertise as a condition for improving impact. He also highlighted the position of libraries in local policies aimed at improving educational opportunities for the disadvantaged. Both local and national conditions for the durability of library programmes were outlined, illustrated by the nation-wide “Library at School” programme in the Netherlands.

Focussing on highly marginalised readers in Chile, Dr. Konstantin Mierau from the University of Groningen (NL) shared insights from several years of interviews and surveys among incarcerated readers. As part of the “Converging Horizons” research project, Mierau has developed a transdisciplinary approach to the ecosystem of cultural representations of marginality, with a particular interest in using cultural representation to establish connections among communities in conflict. He collaborates with the Chilean Biblioredes prison library program in Impacting Reads: a multi-year study of the effects of reading in prisons which offers insights into the transformative effects of reading in prison settings.

Elizabeth Jones, National Library of New Zealand presented the New Zealand Communities of Readers initiative. This project is part of a broader programme of national reading initiatives supporting the National Library’s strategic aspiration to grow a nation of readers. As Director of Literacy and Learning, Elizabeth shared how the program aims to support an inclusive community-wide approach to reading initiatives for children and young people with a focus on reading for pleasure and wellbeing, reflecting local community needs and priorities. This discussion included key factors that influenced the approach and a summary of insights and significant positive impact to date.

Thomas Olsen, Världens Bibliotek, Sweden, (one of the few professional storytellers in Scandinavia), shared his hands-on approach to bring stories and reading into the lives of many children and young people. He has developed interactive events which foster reading comprehension, highlighting the power of reading and entertaining through story by telling Nordic fairy tales. Thomas worked as a creative consultant and project manager for many years and helps companies, institutions and organisations to grow by expanding their creative toolset. He is now the operational manager of ‘Världens Bibliotek’, a free digital service providing e-books and audiobooks in migrant languages in Norway and Sweden.

These presentations and discussions demonstrated how reading initiatives, diverse in nature and origin, can bring about positive change, foster connections, and contribute to the growth and well-being of communities worldwide. Both the “Journeys into Reading” Satellite which focussed exclusively on young people’s reading and literacy as well as the Building Connections and Communities presentations provided a platform for professionals to explore these themes and exchange ideas that will continue to influence the world of libraries, literacies and reading initiatives.

Book Swap: Sharing the Joy of Reading

As part of a strategy to foster connections and camaraderie among delegates, a book swap activity was organized as part of the WLIC Building Communities session. Attendees were encouraged to bring a book to the session, accompanied by a note about what they love most about the book. This thoughtful gesture created personal connections among delegates based on their reading experiences, facilitating informal networking and sharing the pure joy of reading and books. delegates are encouraged to bring a book with a written note about what they love about the book to the session and swap with someone else. This initiative will allow delegates to connect through their own reading experiences and share the joy of reading and books with each other and provide the opportunity for informal networking.

The Library of Congress Literacy Awards

In the midst of the inspiring discussions and presentations one prominent opportunity was the sharing of outstanding literacy efforts recognised through the Library of Congress Literacy Awards, generously funded by philanthropist David M. Rubenstein. The Library of Congress Literacy Awards are prestigious prizes that acknowledge and celebrate the remarkable contributions of individuals and organizations in the field of literacy, both nationally and internationally. These awards play a pivotal role in recognizing the tireless efforts of those who are committed to improving literacy rates, fostering a love for reading, and promoting education and literacy as critical components of a thriving society.

The awards are a testament to the Library of Congress’s commitment to advancing literacy and learning on a global scale. Established in 2013 with the generous support of David M. Rubenstein, a prominent figure in philanthropy and cultural preservation, the Library of Congress Literacy Awards have become a beacon of recognition and encouragement for literacy advocates worldwide.

The Literacy Awards consist of three categories:

  1. The David M. Rubenstein Prize: This prestigious prize is awarded to organizations that have made significant contributions to advancing literacy. It acknowledges programs, initiatives, or institutions that have demonstrated exceptional impact and innovation in promoting literacy on a grand scale.
  2. The American Prize: This category celebrates literacy initiatives within the United States, recognizing the profound impact of organizations, educators, and community leaders who have championed literacy and learning within the nation’s borders.
  3. The International Prize: This category extends the recognition to literacy efforts worldwide. It honours individuals and organizations outside the United States whose work has transcended borders to make a lasting impact on literacy, education, and the development of thriving communities.

These awards serve as a source of inspiration and encouragement for those working tirelessly to address literacy challenges and nurture a culture of reading and learning. The winners of these prizes are celebrated not only for their remarkable achievements but also for the ripple effect their work has on communities, individuals, and societies at large. The Awards embody the commitment of David M. Rubenstein and the Library of Congress to empower individuals through literacy and education. They shine a spotlight on the tireless efforts of those who are dedicated to making the world a better place through the transformative power of reading.

As the “Journeys into Reading” Satellite event and the Building Communities WLIC session unfolded, the Library of Congress Literacy Awards served as a reminder that literacy is not just a personal journey but a collective endeavour that can bring positive change to individuals, communities, and societies as a whole. These awards acknowledge, honour and reward those who are leading the way on these transformative journeys into literacy and education.

Flashmob: Celebrating the Power of Reading Aloud

An exciting and heart-warming addition to the “Journeys into Reading” satellite at the 2023 World Library and Information Congress was the Flashmob activity organized by the New Professionals SIG. This fun and highly engaging heart-warming event took place on August 21st at 6:15 p.m. at Rotterdam Centraal Station, a celebration of the profound significance of reading aloud to children. At 6:30 p.m., librarians from all around the world joined together for this delightful Flashmob activity, where each participant read aloud from a beloved children’s book. The goal was to emphasize the importance of reading to children, a theme that beautifully resonated with the focus of the satellite on Early Literacy.

Initiated by the New Professionals Special Interest Group, this activity saw active participation from members of the IFLA Literacy and Reading, and the C&YA (Children & Young Adults) Sections. It was a joyful occasion where librarians and book enthusiasts came together to share the magic of storytelling and highlight the transformative impact it has on young minds.

Pictures and videos captured the joyful moments of this event, which also held a special place on the official WLIC program, demonstrating the global commitment to promoting early literacy and fostering a love for reading. In a splendid synergy, the C&YA Section took the opportunity to launch the 3rd edition of the “World Through Picture Books” catalogue during the WLIC event. This significant catalogue features contributions from 57 countries, each listing their favourite 10 picture books. Notably, all the books featured in the catalogue are still in print!

Mapping “Literacies” … a way forward across the IFLA Literacy Landscape!

The Literacy and Reading Standing Committee (LitRead) has proposed a new project alongside its building of a resource for Bibliotherapy in the coming term, focussed on the topic of “Literacies”. Stretching its core title in the field of Literacy, the Standing Committee aims to seek out and describe the multitude of literacies that libraries promote and develop that are a focus of the various IFLA Divisions. We invite you to join us as we seek input and collaboration in highlighting the important role that libraries play in the literacy arena… from eco-literacy to info-literacy, adult-literacy to early-literacy, democracy-literacy to creative literacy … and of course health literacy and more – we will have it mapped!

Stay tuned and please keep a look out for your chance to help be the cartographers of this valuable advocacy tool! Let’s get Mapped!

  1. Speaking of eco-literacy Raeco shared its fabulous World First Bioguard80 fully compostable book covering material at the conference! More info here: