Building Bridges with Books: Day 1 of The 3rd Asia Oceania Regional IBBY Congress


Today I was in a room filled with people from all over the world. Yet we all had something in common: a great passion for children’s books.

I met writers, illustrators, publishers, storytellers, dreamers and leaders in the children’s book world. We spoke excitedly as we shared our experiences and learnt about children’s books from each other’s countries.

The 3rd Asia Oceania Regional IBBY Congress is being held in Bangkok over four days, with talks and workshops focusing on children’s books. I’ll be sharing some of the daily highlights here on the blog for you.


One of my favourite speakers today was Wally De Donker, President of non-profit organization The International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY). He shared the important role that children’s books play to encourage empathy.

“Reading is like a game of role-playing; seeing the world through other’s eyes.”

He spoke of how vital empathy is in our world right now.

“We are living in an era in which truth and lies are being blurred. We are living in an era in which great walls are being built to divide us.”

Without reading and thinking, society can make the wrong decisions when electing leaders.

De Donker says that children’s books are a way to promote international understanding between cultures.

“Books can build bridges between people and create opportunities to exchange goods and ideas… As citizens of the world we are obligated to cooperate. We need to work together and strive for a world where everyone prospers.”

During the day I also heard from many other inspiring people, including President of ThaiBBY, Khunying Dr. Kasama Varavan; Thai author, Khun Somboon Singkamanan; Peter Rabbit Brand Manager at Penguin Random House, Thomas Merrington, and country leaders of IBBY.

IBBY in Indonesia have developed innovative mobile libraries to reach people, including by bicycle, motorbike, food carts, and even donkey!

As I spoke with wonderful people from India, Thailand, Uganda, Malaysia, Cambodia, Korea, Germany, and many other countries, I couldn’t help but feel inspired by the buzz of enthusiasm in the air, and the real sense that stories can connect us all.

This opportunity was thanks to my New Colombo Plan Scholarship from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australia. 

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