Celebrating Indigenous Languages on World Book and Copyright Day 2023

Today, I’m delighted to join the global community in celebrating World Book and Copyright Day! As a Consultant Book Buyer at Lost in Books, a multilingual kids’ bookshop in Sydney, and an avid enthusiast of illustrated children’s books, I truly appreciate the power and joy that literature and storytelling bring to children worldwide. UNESCO aptly describes this day as recognising books as a “link between the past and the future, a bridge between generations and across cultures.” So let’s explore the history of this special day, the involvement of UNESCO, the World Book Capital, and why it falls on the 23rd of April.

UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation, has been involved in World Book and Copyright Day since its inception. Their mission to build peace through international cooperation in education, the sciences, and culture aligns perfectly with the goals of World Book Day. In 1995, UNESCO’s General Conference chose April 23 as the date for this celebration, as it marks the death of several prominent authors, including William Shakespeare, Miguel de Cervantes, and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega.

This year’s theme revolves around Indigenous Languages, as part of UNESCO’s ongoing International Decade of Indigenous Languages (2022-32). With almost 7,000 languages worldwide, many of which are spoken by indigenous peoples, UNESCO aims to uphold and promote linguistic diversity and multilingualism.

This year, the UNESCO World Book Capital for 2023 is Accra, the capital city of Ghana. As the 23rd city to hold this prestigious title, Accra will host various projects and activities from April 23, 2023, to April 22, 2024. These events will focus on celebrating and promoting Ghanaian books, reading, creative arts, and culture while empowering children, the youth, persons living with disabilities and head porters (or ‘kayayei’ in native language) who are the women who carry goods stacked high atop their heads and considered a trademark of Ghana’s big cities.

For my fellow illustrated children’s book enthusiasts, today is an opportunity to reflect on how these books contribute to the preservation and promotion of indigenous languages and cultures. Many children’s books incorporate indigenous stories, helping to keep these oral traditions alive and relevant. By supporting and sharing illustrated children’s books that celebrate indigenous languages and cultures, we contribute to a more diverse and inclusive literary world. Allow me to share some noteworthy books I have reviewed that highlight and honour indigenous languages and cultures. Just click on the images below.

You can also see and extensive list of some of my favourite and award-winning Iranian children’s books in the Farsi language, which I curated for Lost in Book here. I have had a similar immersion into the world of Chinese, Arabic and Vietnamese children’s books (watch out for these overviews to be published later in this blog).

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Exploring the Vibrant World of Iranian Children’s Books

You can browse my reviews some beautiful picture books, classic and contemporary literature in my native Russian language here:

“Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and its sequel “Through the Looking-Glass” are published in every corner of the world in multiple languages. Other than the classic English I own “Alice” books in Ukrainian, French, Russian, Japanese, Korean, Czech, Greek and Bulgarian languages. One of the jewells of my collection is a bi-lingual edition of “Alitji in Dreamland” in English and Pitjantjatjara, the latter is one of the few hundred languages spoken by the Aboriginal peoples inhabiting parts of South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory of the Australian continent.

With over 100 volumes in the collection it will take a while to review them all (click here and here for reviews of some of the “Alice” editions in various languages.

Celebrating Indigenous Languages on World Book and Copyright Day 2023 News alice in wonderland foreign language

Let’s grab our favourite illustrated children’s books and join the global conversation! Share your stories, experiences, and how your library promotes and revitalises indigenous languages. Don’t forget to tag your posts with #WorldBookDay and #IndigenousLanguages on social media.

Together, we can ensure that the rich tapestry of global literature continues to flourish, including the voices of indigenous peoples and the enchanting world of illustrated children’s books. Happy World Book and Copyright Day!

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