Connecting Young Poeple to the World with Batchelder Books

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This paper introduces the American Library Association’s award (Batchelder) for most outstanding children’s book originally published in a language other than English in a country other than the United States, and subsequently translated into English for publication in the United States, to encourage American publishers, librarians, and booksellers to seek out superior children’s books abroad and to promote communication among the peoples of the world. The purpose of the introduction is to share our philosophy, supported by theory, as to the need for young people to read and respond to intimate, literary, and thematic stories from other cultures and countries in order to develop into empathetic international citizens. Such philosophy relates to the scholarly contentions of Carl Tomlinson, author of “Children’s Books From Other Countries”; Mildred Batchelder, the consummate former director of the American Library Services for Children division of the ALA, after whom the award is named; and Louise Rosenblatt, well-known reader response theorist. Specifically, a discussion of these theorists’ perspectives will reveal sharing Batchelder books, rather than just factual websites or textbook information about the peoples and places on our globe, helps young people build a foundation of international understanding; brings the experiences of young people in other countries to life, revealing “living, breathing” individuals and diminishing stereotypes; and assists in raising awareness as to how each member of the international community may benefit, one from the other. The authors’ method will be to discuss and summarize several significant Batchelder titles, also providing suggestions for curricular, reader-response tie-ins associated with each title, presenting librarians with myriad means by which these treasured books may be shared with young people. The activities suggested will heavily consider Rosenblatt’s “mirror to window” and aesthetic reader response assertions. Hopefully, both librarians and booksellers will become knowledgeable of the award titles and work to collect and stock, respectively, these international treasures in libraries and stores, right along with Newbery and Caldecott titles, hence adopting the role of creating internationally aware readers and citizens within our diverse and multicultural world. The implications of such awareness are significant at both a micro and macro level. First, at the micro level, engaged students, reading about and connecting to “exotic” children from cultures other than their own, will strengthen reading fluency and language arts skills. The distinctive, differing styles and points-of-view in these texts will assist in the understanding of literary elements, while also, on a human rather than textbook level, disclosing major world issues of both the past and present. Additionally, the internationalization of curricula will be enhanced if librarians are aware of the proposed methods. At the macro level, the titles serve to nurture the value of international understanding and respect amongst peoples of the world, develop humane and supportive world citizens, and confirm humanity’s universal experiences, overshadowing differences and conflicts.