Creating A Generation Of Readers

A common complaint of people who work in children’s and young people’s literature is that this area of literature is not sufficiently visible. The International Istanbul Book Fair, November 17 to 25, is breaking that vicious cycle in its 31st year.

The fair’s main theme this year is “My Childhood is My Country: Children’s and Young People’s Literature”.  If we interpret the word ‘country’ a little more broadly, do we not understand where, and therefore how, we grew up?

So, how can we, as parents, teachers and readers, turn the 31st International Istanbul Book Fair into eight days that are as useful as they are fun? A responsibility clearly falls on parents in this division of labor. A responsibility when they bring their children to the fair to allocate a budget, as far as their finances allow, and to give the children responsibility for that budget. And in so doing to share with their children the criteria for choosing a book. What are those criteria then?

Literature should be enjoyable for all ages, and especially for children. In other words, if we guide our children to acquire books in line with their interests, have we not saved them from books they would find boring, indeed books that might turn them off reading altogether? It’s also important to encourage our children to find out something about a book they are going to buy by reading the blurbs on the back cover or even reading a few of the opening paragraphs. As you tour the fair and browse the stalls, it is essential to make a distinction between textbooks and literature and not to forget that there is also a need for literature and to distinguish between the two. In terms of observing the connection children make between a book and the world conveyed in it, it is important too that parents read, as far as time allows, the books their children buy, or at least thumb through them, that they share their ideas about the book with their children and, from the standpoint of making later choices, explain why they did or did not enjoy reading the book.

Long story short, let us leave the children to their own devices in front of the colorful and attractive stalls of the Istanbul Book Fair. We did say that our childhood is our country, and who knows better than they do in which book they want to ramble in that country.

Well-known to adults, especially to history buffs and university students, Dutch professor of Erik Jan Zürcher is also among the invited guests of the 31st International Istanbul Book Fair, of which Holland is the honorary guest country.

Held at the Büyükçekmece TÜYAP Fair and Congress Center, the 31st International Istanbul Book Fair is open daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. The Fair ends at 7 p.m. on Sunday, November 25.