IPA Blogs

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Categories
    Categories Displays a list of categories from this blog.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.

Bologna Children’s Book Fair 2018 (part 2)

by in Publishing industry

Part 2 : literacy, importance of reading aloud and reading promotion

While my first two days in Bologna were focused on illustrators, either by coincidence, or by the design of the fair’s programme, the second part of my visit was articulated around the literacy and reading promotion.

As suggested by its title, «European literacy network, best practices in reading», the first conference on this topic series that I attended, was focused on Europe and a recent drop in literacy and reading rates. During the last 10 years, not much has been done in this area. Currently, one in five 15-year-olds in Europe and nearly 55 million adults lack basic literacy skills. It limits their opportunities in life as digital media expand and there is an increasing need for life-long learning. 

In the crowded room, more than half of the audience were librarians and the second most represented group were teachers. 

Christine Garbe presented some of the results of her team’s research. According to her presentation, the preconditions for successful policy on literacy are: 

  • creation of a literate environment, 
  • increase in the quality of teaching and establishment of active participation, 
  • inclusion and equality. 

There are still gaps in achieving full literacy in Europe which are linked to socio-economic factors, migration, gender and digital.

The key point is that children should have contact with books and the written word before starting school. To ensure this contact, families need to be literate. But 2011 PIRLS data shows average number of parents who “like” reading is 35.3%, 12% of children belong to families with no or few children books and 42% of children have parents who do not read often to them. 

Good examples of national initiatives included a “new-born free pack” with information about the importance of and instructions on interactions with a baby for parents, and involvement of numerous families in reading communities. The role of fathers in this early education was particularly stressed. They are perceived, especially by boys, as “cool”, so all that they do is worth imitating. Then, there is much to do at the school level to foster reading culture and reading for pleasure. Again, the features of successful programmes were given. Some useful resources can be found on www.eli-net.eu

Then, the session focused on Italy and initiatives elaborated to close the gaps.


I popped into the Authors Café to learn more about the importance of reading aloud. It should start very early (at 9 months) to develop a good relationship, confidence and language structure. 

In contrast to reading with parents, public readings (for example in libraries, or bookshops),enable a child to develop differentiation between an intimate relationship with his/her parents and social networking. 

The diverse panel included a childrens’ author, a psychiatrist, a bookseller and a pediatrician.

I finished the day by a conference presenting solutions to fill the gap between the countries where the publishing industry is flourishing and those where the local languages are too numerous, or too small and communities are thirsty for books. 

The panelists of “the Book desert” were talking about what authors, illustrators and publishers do to expand access to books in these underserved languages. This is the ground for charities which work with local partners and propose simple and cheap solutions.

For example, in Rwanda, 378 million children cannot currently read, or even learn to read. There is also a lack of public libraries, so no choice of books. Save the Children works there on a project to change this reality. Children are involved in the process, say what they want to read, choose the books, evaluate them.

The Global Book Alliance (GBA) is a joint initiative of Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and is currently working on launching the Global Digital Library in April. 

There is also Bookshare, an online library established as a social enterprise under the Marrakesh Treaty (www.bookshare.org) to give access to books to children with visual and print disabilities.

It was a shame that the local partners were missing. I would have loved to hear from the authors and publishers involved in these projects.


Conference panelists:

«European literacy network, best practices in reading»

  • Flavia Cristiano, Centro per il Libro e la Lettura
  • Renate Valtin, Humboldt University Berlin
  • Christine Garbe, University of Cologneb2ap3_thumbnail_Authors-Cafe-JBB.jpg
  • Tiziana Mascia, Libera Università di Bolzano

“The Book Desert – How can we close the children’s book gap in developing countries?”

  • Rebecca Chandler-Leege, World Vision Project Director of All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development; 
  • Sofia Cozzolino, Programme Manager, Rwandan Children’s Book Initiative, Save the Children International


The last conference that I attended was “The 1st European Independent Children’s Bookstores Conference” opened by Michiel Kolman, IPA President. 


The panelists spoke about the importance of the small, community bookstores which constitute a natural link between the publishers and the readers. They know exactly the preferences and needs of their customers. They also should be able to propose suitable, interesting books. To arrive at school with a previous experience of books and reading, children should be exposed to them, be able to pick up the books by themselves. So, the choice is very important. There can simply be a color, or shape that attracts them on the first glance and not the story.

The booksellers make the connection between the children and books available on the market. Some examples of commercial successes were given when the whole buzz around it started from a booksellers’ pick.

The booksellers report that, currently, parents and teachers are more worried by children’s ability to concentrate than by their reading abilities.


Final remarks

I found the new visual identity of the fair great and it is even more funky onsite. 

The venue is pleasant, well designed – there is an abundance of daylight and you can also always go outside the halls and take a deep breath of fresh air. 

The self-service food stands are perfect for a quick break and the food is excellent. 

I was truly impressed by the stand of the guest of honor – China. Immense! (so impressed that I did not even think to take photos so you could get a feel for it!) The number of publishers and titles were simply amazing with many already translated into foreign languages (mainly English and French).

My special b2ap3_thumbnail_fblike1.jpg 

All award-winning books and those that are in focus at the conference are available in the special bookstore in the main area connecting the Halls (and seemed to be doing great business!).


Practical tips and warnings for first-timers:

  • If you come for the first time – the AeroBus www.aerobus.bo.it from the airport to the main railway station works well. From there take the bus N° 35 - across the street from the station under the arcades (the stop on the main square is for the bus going the other way).


  • All public buses going to the fair: 28, 35, 38, 39. https://www.tper.it/ 
  • The 38 and 39 do a tour of the city (in opposite directions). Make sure you pick the right one!
  • If you take a bus which stops at Viale Aldo Moro and you already have your entrance ticket, you can jump off, turn immediately to the right down the small cul-de-sac and find the little path between the fences… 


  • For the bus back to the airport, the machine only takes 1 and 2 EUR coins, so be prepared. If you don’t have change some entrepreneurial Gipsy ladies at the railway station AeroBus’s stop are happy to help you out, and even give you change (for a fee of course).
  • A single bus ticket cost 1.30 EUR but costs more (1.50 EUR) on the bus. The machine does not return change so keep a bag full of coins handy.
  • And the cherry on the cake: there is a free bus for exhibitors from Monday until Thursday every 20 minutes in the morning between 7h45 and 9h25 and in the afternoon from 17h50 until 19h15 connecting the fair with the railway station and the city center!

Next year’s Bologna Children Book Fair will be from 1- 4 April 2019 and its guest of honour will be Switzerland, its children’s books and great illustrators.


Enjoy Bologna!


Last modified on

Joanna is Project and Office Manager at IPA. She is in charge of relations with international book fairs, publication of their calendar and special reports.

  • No comments made yet. Be the first to submit a comment

Leave your comment

Guest Monday, 21 January 2019