An Exclusive Interview with Mr. Redza, President of MBBY by Stefano Romano
1 – Do you want to present your foundation? When it was born, what are your goals and where its located? In which city in Malaysia
Malaysia Board on Books for Young People (MBBY) was established in 2004 in Shah Alam, Malaysia. Membership is open to all who have interest in the development and promotion of children literature. MBBY aims to promote national understanding and unity through children’s books as well as provide the opportunity for children to read quality children’s books. MBBY also aims to provide the support and encouragement for publishers, authors and illustrators to further develop children’s books through training and development programs. MBBY also promotes Malaysian children’s stories and books to the world through its membership in IBBY and participation in international book fairs and conferences. As the leading organization in children’s literature in Malaysia, MBBY is also a member of the National Book Council of Malaysia, a secretariat in charge of book development and promotions under the Ministry of Education Malaysia.
2 – What is the IBBY?
IBBY was founded in Zurich, Switzerland in 1953. Today, IBBY has 76 National Sections, representing 76 countries all over the world. IBBY is a non-profit organization which represents an international network of people from all over the world who are committed to bringing books and children together. The membership of the National Sections include authors and illustrators, publishers and editors, translators, journalists and critics, teachers, university professors and students, librarians and booksellers, social workers and parents. IBBY also cooperates with many international organizations and children’s book institutions around the world and exhibits at the International Children’s Book Fair in Bologna and other international book fairs. IBBY’s policies and programmers are determined by its Executive Committee: ten people from different countries and a President, elected biennially by the National Sections at a General Assembly during the IBBY Congresses. For more information, please visit our website at http://www.ibby.org/.
3 – What are the main activities of the MBBY?
Throughout the year, many activities are organized by MBBY for its members for training and development of children books. This covers creative writing elements and illustrations. Talks and discussions are often held as well especially when we receive visitors from other countries who are willing to share pointers and their experiences. MBBY participates annually in the Kuala Lumpur International Book air and uses this platform to introduce the organization and our activities. MBBY has been the main content and conference organizers for the Children’s Festival organized by Kuala Lumpur Book City in 2012 and 2014. For 2015, MBBY will be hosting the 2nd Asia Oceania IBBY Regional Conference in Kuala Lumpur where we expect participants from most of the countries within Asia Oceania.
4 – What is the PORTAL KOTA BUKU and what is the relation with MBBY?
Kota Buku or known as Kuala Lumpur Book City is a set up under the auspices of the Government of Malaysia and the Ministry Of Education. It operates as a one-stop centre for all activities related to books and aims to bring together all writers, illustrators, publishers for this purpose. It also supports activities related to the development and distributions of books in its traditional form as well as electronic platform. It also undertakes promotion of Malaysian books abroad.
There is no direct relations with Malaysia IBBY in terms of structure or hierarchy. There exist strong working relationship between the two by virtue of our common goals especially in promotion of books and activities pertaining to children books. More so as KL Book city has identified children literature as their focus area as well.
5 – What is the “bibliotherapy”?
The Right of every Child to become a Reader is championed by IBBY. IBBY believes that every child everywhere in the world must have access to good books and have the fullest opportunity to be a reader. Becoming a reader empowers the child. A child who reads will be able to think, react, participate and differentiate. He or she will be sensitive but also have strong empathy towards others. The books a child read will lead them to a higher level of achievement and understanding. It will also present opportunities to use the books to help other children in many ways as it has helped them. This is a brief explanation of what bibliotherapy is.
In bibliotherapy, books are used to help relieve trauma. Adults and caregiver are trained to read to children affected by disasters, wars and others. IBBY raises funds for this through it Children In Crises Fund and so far more than 20 countries have benefitted from this effort. The funds also assists in rebuilding libraries, replacement of books and training of adults to undertake bibiliotherapy in their areas. Funds are also used to provide books in the child’s own mother tongue.
6 – In March, You will be in Italy for the Literature Festival in Bologna. What will be the significance of your presence?
The Bologna International Children’s Book fair 2014 starts on 24th – 27th March. This grand event takes place every year at around this time. It is the largest and most important children’s book fair in the world. IBBY is an important feature during this book fair as most of our national sections are also participants of the book fair. During the fair, I will chair our traditional press conference in the afternoon of the first day, where we announce our activities, achievements and major announcements such as projects, children in crises fund, training and development activities etc. It is usually the highlight of the first day. During the congress years, the every two years like this year, the press conference will feature the announcement of the winners of the Hans Christen Andersen Awards, the winners of the IBBY Asahi Reading Promotion Award, something that everyone is excited about.
We also announce as well as showcase the IBBY Honor List, being books recognized as the best children books selected by national sections of IBBY. It is also during the book fair that IBBY announces and launch the IBBY Collection of Books for Children with Disabilities. This is done every two years with the last one done in 2013. The IBBY stand is the meeting point for all during the fair. Apart from the displays, it is also where we meet members and friends and discussions being help with regard to our works.
7 – In this time of digitizing (smart-phone, tablet, e-book..) How do you see the future of the book as physical object? Do you think the book will endure over time?
Books have existed for a very long time and its usefulness to readers, children and adults is proven without doubt. Books have withstood the test of time. It not only attracts readers for its content but also for its work of art, in its illustrations as well the quality of print and bind.
With the evolution of new media, ICT brought changes in the way people access content. New gadgets with some new features have become the rage for readers.
What remains is that it is content that matters to all. With good content, everyone wants to read it, access it. So I don’t think books are under threat of being banished in favor of digital tools. Rather we have an evolution where contents will be made available through multimedia as well instead of traditional books. People may want to have both because of different reasons. It is the content that will attract them and the beauty of stories and illustrations will be the primary consideration when people make decisions on how they will read. I believe this will be the trend.
So books will continue to attract and so will electronic or digital books so long as the content remain relevant and useful to readers. Publishers will continue to publish good content in both forms because there will be interest for both. I will certainly continue to love traditional books because of its uniqueness, it has a certain smell that calms me and accompanies me when I read. Beautifully crafted and printed books are a beauty to hold and own. Meanwhile digital books are most useful when I am travelling and in a hurry. It has a different use for me.
8 – To conclude, what is the deeper meaning of culture for you?
To me, culture is much larger than just the dances and costumes and the national language. Culture is intertwined with civilization of that particular country or area. It’s also about all languages they use, their stories be it written or oral, their art including their illustrations and much more. It does not just tell us about the history, but it’s a continuous story, unfolding and like a running stream taking us on a journey that enables us to understand and appreciate the past and use it to tell and relate to the present and future. Culture must be inclusive, not only catering to the adults but to include the young, the children, by them and for them.
Because of my involvement in children and especially literature, I now try hard to look at culture from the angle of children literature of the past and the present and try to understand as well as relate them to the environment today. It has helped be understand and appreciate better the beauty, significance especially the role it plays in the development of the civilization. It is important for young people today to understand and appreciate their own culture as they embark on their life for tomorrow.