this cutie was taken by Crazyegg95 in 2005 and is from flickr

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Sunday, 5 April 2009

some of my best friends are books

Many of my friends and I share a love of books. Though I don't think I realised it when I was younger, books really do open up more worlds, and more worlds, and more worlds. When I was a kid, I just read instead of playing softball, or netball, or volleyball, though I did that too in limited amounts (it was compulsory). Not only did I read, but I used to write. Both my sister and I did. We would sit on the tin roof of the shed after climbing the paperbark tree. We used to take the white bark of the tree, and pretend it was the breast meat from Kentucky Fried Chicken. We had small notebooks, and we wrote down stories, some that we made up, and others, like The Three Little Pigs, which had already been made up.

We also used to sit on the cement lid of the old septic tank (pipes had been laid a couple of years earlier) and we'd have our Enid Blyton books, all of which had pictures that could be coloured, not that I think you were meant to do that with them. Our game was to delve into a bag of textas we had and pull out whichever colour our hand landed upon, and to then colour whichever part of the picture we were focussing on that shade. It was a real bummer when you pulled out dark green followed by navy blue followed by cacky brown. Well, I never was much of an artist.

Another of our favourite ways to wile away the time was to scour through our nan's magazines for names. Both my sister and I had ring-bound diaries from the year before, which our parents had not got around to using. Each two pages was a letter of the alphabet. We would paste names for each letter. Only girls names, mind you. No boys allowed. There was a designer popular in those days, with pink hair, Zandra Ross. Pink hair was radical in the seventies. Thank God for her. Zoe was not a popular name in those days. I don't know what we did for Q or X. Maybe we cheated with Queen Elizabeth - she certainly featured enough in the Women's Day and the Women's Weekly. For X, obviously there are lovely names around such as Xanthe, but I wasn't to meet one of those until many years in the future. Maybe the page was left as blank as a slate, as the saying goes.

And so, that brings me to the gist and the grist of this post. Look at the faces of these kids:

The Tamer Institute for Community Education, which promotes reading and works in the West Bank and Gaza, won The 2009 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. I referred to this briefly in a post, here.

The jury's reasons for awarding the world's richest literature prize are as follows (my emphasis):
With perseverance, courage and resourcefulness, the Tamer Institute has stimulated Palestinian children’s and young people’s love of reading and creativity for two decades. Under difficult circumstances, the Institute carries out reading promotion work of an unusual breadth and versatility. In the spirit of Astrid Lindgren, the Tamer Institute sees the power of words and the strength of books, stories and the imagination as important keys to the courage to face life, self-esteem and tolerance.
A description of the Tamer Institute is as follows (my emphasis):
Focusing principally, on the rights to education, identity, freedom of expression, and access to information, Tamer works across the West Bank and Gaza Strip, primarily targeting children and young people and developing alternatives and supplements to formal education. Our programs promote reading and writing on national and regional levels, development of children’s literature, and creative self-expression and youth empowerment through advocacy and community development initiatives. Our philosophy is centered on the idea that learning environments for children and young people can only be created among youth who are encouraged to read, write, and participate in dialogue while working in small groups united by a common dream and joint aspirations. In order to increase community learning, youth should also be involved in action at the community level, and come out with a tangible end product.
This is the seventh time the award has been given out. Previous winners have been Australia's Sonya Harnett (2008), Phillip Pullman (2005) and Maurice Sendak (2003). Other winners can be found here. This is the first time the award has been given to an organisation, though an organisation has always been able to qualify for the award, and Tamer has been nominated since 2004.
The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (ALMA) is the world’s largest prize for children’s and young people’s literature. The prize totals SEK 5 million (equivalent to approx. USD 578,000, 445,000 EUR) and is awarded annually to a single recipient or to several. Authors, illustrators, storytellers and those active in reading promotion may be rewarded. The prize aims to strengthen and increase interest in children’s and young people’s literature globally. The award is designed to strengthen children’s rights at global level. An expert jury names prize-winners who are nominated by institutions and organisations worldwide. The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award is administered by the Swedish Arts Council.

Astrid Lindgren wrote Pippi Longstocking in 1944. Originally it was a story she told her sick daughter. She later wrote it down, when she, herself, was incapacitated (well, sprained ankle).
How could a girl from the village of Vimmerby in the Swedish countryside end up writing stories that touch people in such different cultures? Stories that comfort a girl in Poland, and make a boy in Thailand laugh? The answer is fairly simple: a good story is a good story anywhere. If it touches our humanity, makes us dream, makes us laugh so much it hurts, then it makes no difference if the comfortably chubby man in the best years of his life is called Kalli, Kljukec or Karlsson on the Roof.

Astrid once said that she always wrote for her inner child. By doing that, she reached out to the whole world.
Tamer particularly focuses on children as they are 60% of the Palestinian population, though children's (and adult's) rights to education, identity, freedom of expression, and access to information is something that shouldn't have to be fought for, and definitely something that should be encouraged.
In towns, villages and refugee camps:
A group of children are sitting round a table in the library in Ramallah. The librarian starts to tell a story: “Once upon a time, there was a fisherman who was no longer able to catch any fish.” A child continues: “He told his son that they had no money.” And so the story continues from child to child. When it is over, each child illustrates its sentence and the story becomes a book that is put on the shelf for other children to read.

At the same time, in Hebron, eleven librarians are studying classification, computer science and creative writing. And in a village nearby, thirty women are listening to a reading of Selma Lagerlöf’s The Changeling. A big discussion breaks out. Was the mother right or wrong to be nice to the young troll?

These are some examples of the activities carried out by the Tamer Institute for Community Education, an independent organisation working in the West Bank and Gaza. The organisation, which has received aid from sources including Unicef, Save the Children and the Anna Lindh Foundation, was founded in 1989 and is based in Ramallah.
There is a lot more information about its initiatives here, including the meaning behind its name.

I cannot get through to the Tamer Institute, though I did previously. I don't know if my computer is glitchy, or if it is the link, but this link is correct and there is a lot of information on their pages. I hope it works by the time you come to read this. Just in case, the address is or this might work better:

Renad Qubbaj
General Director,
Tamer Institute for
Community Education
She looks so happy. The award will be presented on the second of June by H.R.H Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden. Let's hope that Israeli forces allow representatives of the Tamer Institute to collect it.

There are many stories and activities presented and talked about at the Tamer website, but perhaps, the most topical and recent are the stories of the children who survived the war on Gaza.

I cannot print it here, but there is a wonderful pdf available of the poster commemorating this prize. It has the children from that second photograph above (the smiling girls), and would be gorgeous to see in any library or classroom across the world.


Anonymous said...

Rose ♥

I just loved your post today. Pipi Longstocking brings back memories. When I was little I bought a paperback copy for 10cents from a freind, first book I owned that I could write my name in.

So important to do that you know, to write your name on it!. LOL.

Jane ♥

lizardrinking said...

Hi Jane,
I remember trying to write my name in a book. I was so desperate to do that. My sister was going to school already, and it was my turn the following year. It was a Little Golden book. My name ended up looking like a Kandinsky penguin. :-) I remember that to this day, well today, anyway! I'm glad you enjoyed it. Not as tight as it could be, but meh!

Shanti Wallah said...

Thanks for passing on that link. It looks a really great programme. Incidentally, we also had a tree something like the paper tree you mentioned, but we pretended bits of it were cake!

lizardrinking said...

Thanks for reading, Shanti. I hope NZ is not getting too cold!

Anonymous said...

I am so glad that the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (ALMA) will be given to the Tamer Institute in Gaza. I have just returned to Belgium from a 10 days studytrip to the Occupied Palestinian Territories. We were 15people and what we have seen and witnessed there is beyond words. Palestinians are humiliated daily, their life is really hell.

this cutie was taken by Crazyegg95 in 2005 and is from flickr