Multi-language website offers free picture books on COVID-19 for children of the world
"When those monsters came, nobody noticed. Dad is a doctor. He calls them 'novel coronavirus'", the picture book Ten Tips to Fight Monsters opens through a child's perspective.
Ever since the title became available online at the beginning of April, its easy-to-read language and warm illustrations have helped children across China learn about how the virus spreads, all the while offering scientific protection measures.
Aside from readers from China, more and more young readers (and their parents) around the world are benefiting from the philanthropic website Life Tree Books, initiated by Zhang Mingzhou, president of IBBY (International Board on Books for Young People). Eleven original works by China, selected by a jury of experts, translated into 13 languages, including Japanese, French and Russian, are available for readers to enjoy, all free of charge.
The website is part of Zhang's philanthropic program called "Picture Books about COVID-19 for Children Around the World", which he launched on February 29 to help youngsters fight against the pandemic through reading picture books on the coronavirus.
"Ever since the pandemic, quite a number of children have been forced to remain indoors. There is a shortage of information (on the pandemic) suitable for children to understand. Negative emotions including not knowing, fear, loneliness and anxiety are surrounding and troubling them," Zhang said.
He pleaded for publishers to donate publishing rights of books on the novel coronavirus and invited adept translators to translate these works into foreign languages.
In just a few days, Zhang received donated copyrights from more than 50 publishing houses, authors and illustrators from China, and more than 300 volunteer translators who are able to work with more than 10 languages.
"We then spent about a month to launch the website. It is the collaborated fruit of translators, web designers, programmers and legal experts," Zhang said.
"Scientific knowledge is integrated with literature, so children can read an interesting story and learn about science in a natural fashion," Liu Lei, deputy editor in chief of Qingdao Publishing Group, said. "The themes may differ but the love is the same. These selected 11 books are bringing forward warmth to children of the world."
The 11 works selected cover a wide range of subjects, from how to protect ourselves from the virus, selfless contributions of medical and social workers, to a brief history of viruses and the prospect of life after the winning the war against the pandemic. Zhang says the conveying of these information could not have been possible without the effort of hundreds of translators.
"They worked very productively and effectively. In order to respect the reading habits of different cultures and provide the best possible visual result, many translators worked many late nights with their designers," Zhang added.
There were many global supports as well. Brazilian illustrator Roger Mello, laureate of 2014 Hans Christian Andersen Awards, designed the poster and logo for Life Tree Books. The translation of Iranian writer Ali-Asghar Seyyedabadi's Hannah, Our Hero is underway, which teaches children how to take care of themselves during the pandemic.
Publishers from Malaysia, Pakistan and Mongolia have expressed the willingness to translate these works into Malay, Urdu and Mongolian. Moreover, leading digital library service providers and contents sharing providers have incorporated these works into libraries from more than 70 countries for readers to enjoy.
"The world is still fighting a tough war against the coronavirus, and our 'Picture Books about COVID-19 for Children around the World' is still ongoing. We hope to transmit knowledge on the disease and positive spirit through these great picture books. We also hope that more and more children can learn about the coronavirus through our recommended books, the protection measures taken and the strength exhibited in fighting against it. We want our children to grow up healthy and happy," Zhang said.
Visit the website at www.lifetreebooks.org.cn
Language now available online are Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Farsi, Japanese, Korean and Thai and Fahsi. Languages to be available include Sinhalese, Tamil, Nepalese, Mongolian, Malay, Portuguese, Dutch and Swahili.