IBBY Finland celebrated the International Children’s Book Day 27th March by organizing with a seminar titled Children’s book preventing racism. During the seminar the audience had the opportunity to listen to presentations about literary art as a means to integrate children from refugee or immigration backgrounds to a new country and empower them, the ways in which the Finnish children’s literature has approached racism and about the importance of reading about racism to children of all ethnicities, and how to promote anti-racism in children’s books. The seminar concluded with a panel by two writers, a writer and illustrator and a researcher discussing the current publication situation in Finland surrounding the topic.
One of the recurring themes was working closely with children of diverse ethnicities and enabling them to speak up for themselves. This is of utmost importance since they have the knowledge and experience about their backgrounds and how it affects their lives. To IBBY Finland’s knowledge, no children’s books have been written on immigration and racism issues by an immigrant in Finland, something that IBBY Finland and the speakers were eager to change.
Another topic that was highly emphasized was a call for an active change and empathy. For a long time, Finnish children’s books about racism promoted tolerance and acceptance, passive emotions and states of being that do not enable change or make children to stand up and defend the attacked. More recent Finnish children’s books focus on normalizing the idea that Finnish society consists of people from different cultures and ethnicities and even reclaiming some of the national symbols that the racist, right-wing movement has taken possession of.
In celebration of the International Children’s Book Day and high-quality book translations, IBBY Finland also launched a new award called Aarressari (Treasure Island) together with The Finnish Association of Translators and Interpreters. The award is 3000 € and it is given every other year to a translation that laudably represents its genre and broadens cultural horizon. The first Aarresaari laureate was Raija Rintamäki and publisher Kustannus Mäkelä for Rose Lagercrantz‘ Dunne books. Honorary awards were given to Tuomas Nevanlinna for his translation of Roald Dahl’s Dirty Beasts and to Eeva-Liisa Nyqvist for her translations of Siri Pettersen’s Evna (The Might).
The jury also took the opportunity to express their wish to publish the translator’s name more often on the book cover which is very uncommon in Finland.
The seminar attracted widespread interest and all seats were booked well before the seminar date.