After I “retired” in 1996, I decided to devote a lot of my time and my royalty funds to doing workshops in countries where they had few or no children's books for young children. I had been working with the use of cloth for a number of years, in my workshops for IBBY and other international organizations. I had found that persons with little or no experience in handling children's picture books did best if they worked in cloth (paper and art materials scared them a bit).
I used a technique in which I backed up pictures in cloth with fusible web. The participants then cut out the pictures and ironed them on to the cloth pages, arranging them as they saw fit. The texts were hand-printed using fabric pens and were usually in their home language and in a major language. Most of these techniques are described in my book, HOW TO MAKE CLOTH BOOKS FOR CHILDREN.
In this way, groups were able to make books in many African languages, indigenous South American languages, and some Asian languages. In all, my workshops took me to about 40 different countries during the past 25 years. About 20 USBBY members have first-hand experience as to how a workshop is run, since they accompanied me on a trip to South Africa in 2004, just before the Capetown IBBY congress. We worked with the Venda people in a very remote area of South Africa.
It usually took me 2-3 months to prepare the materials to take but I had many family members and friends helping me. They also haunted fabric shops, buying for me the pieces of cloth with interesting pictures that were suitable in many situations: African and Latin American animals, children with skin color that looked like the children I would be working with, flowers and trees that also matched the environments to which I was going.
The favorite types of books were first word books, first name books (a page for each letter in a child's name), simple folk tales from that culture and simple concept books.
My greatest joy has been in seeing the absolute delight the participants had when they saw the first picture books in their home language.
I have not done many workshops in this country, but the few I did do were very successful. In the one I did for the New York Public Library, we had 15 persons and they made books in 9 or 10 languages. I also did a workshop in Arizona that drew mostly Hispanics and a few Native Americans.
However, due to health reasons, I am no longer able to travel, and I still have many materials. that could be used to make cloth books. I am offering these to USBBY members, free of charge, and I will pay the cost of shipping.
I have some cut-out cloth pages (made from old cotton sheets), quite a few pictures already cut out roughly (some with fusible web on the back,) a large amount of pieces of fabric with an assortment of illustrations not yet cut out, and a large roll of fusible web.
For those able to come and visit me in my home, for a one-day demonstration, they could choose the materials suited to their situation. In other cases, I would do my best to select some materials.
These workshops would be especially welcome, I feel, in areas where there has been a lot of recent immigration. Such persons are delighted to be able to make books for babies and young children.
All are grateful for this incredible offer. If interested, please let the secretariat know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org , and he will help coordinate.
(Photos credited to Mary Farrell and to the Segenat Children and Youth Library)
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