Why Was This Project Created?
Despite the fact that the world is becoming increasingly international and American society is becoming increasingly multicultural on account of a large influx of immigrants, refugees, and international workers, these trends are not reflected in children’s literature available and promoted to American children of all ages through schools and libraries. Children’s reading selections remain chiefly reliant on American, North American, and English-language production, which does not allow children to experience the richness of narratives and traditions from around the world or just to have fun encountering unexpected wonders. This is all the more regrettable, given that most of these stories are near and dear to the hearts of many Americans – those who were not born or grew up in the U.S., but live and work here now, contributing to the American economy, culture, and social life, and bringing up their children as Americans. Overall, translated titles constitute only 3% of titles published in the U.S. annually, which has become known as a “three-percent problem” (Post, 2011), and it is not at all clear what percentage can be attributed to translated children’s literature.
However, even those few translated titles that do make it to the U.S. reading market are not actively sought and promoted to young readers. Hence, the selection of reading materials engaging American children remains steadily defined by the titles written by “citizens or residents of the United States” and published in the U.S., “in a U.S. territory or U.S. commonwealth” (Sivashankar, 2020, para. 2). Under the circumstances, children do not get to enjoy the two greatest benefits of translated literature: its ability to open up the world of people and cultures residing outside of American borders (the international aspect); and its ability to help children learn and understand the lives and worldviews of their neighbors (the multicultural aspect). With issues of immigration, internationalization, and multiculturalism remaining steadily at the forefront of both societal debate and education, librarians have to critically revisit the inclusion (and exclusion) and representation of international translated children’s literature in their collections, programming, and services.
Unfortunately, introducing young readers to the wealth of translated stories is not an easy task for American librarians. There is a shortage of professional resources and tools to help librarians with selection; there is a scarcity of any authoritative, reliable, free of charge, updated, and easily accessible information for evaluating translated titles. Locating this information requires resorting to multiple sources, special awareness that these sources exist, and much time and effort to sift through scattered reviews. Similarly, even when strides are made to include international authors, voices, and stories, the outcomes often reflect an overwhelmingly European-centric orientation and do not provide enough coverage for contributions (Thorton, 2011; Möllers, 2006).
This project, supported by a Carnegie-Whitney grant from the American Library Association, stands to address these difficulties and gaps through the creation of an extensive, open-access, updatable website with reviews of international translated children’s literature, gathered in one easily accessible place.