Wordless Books for Kids

Ibby featureYou have until December 11, 2015 to catch the IBBY (International Board on Books for Young People) exhibit, Silent Books: Final Destination Lampedusa, at the North York Central Library (part of the Toronto Public Library system).

In response to the waves of refugees from Africa and the Middle East arriving on the small Italian island of Lampedusa, the International Board on Books for Young People (through IBBY Italia) is working to establish the island’s first children’s library, to be used by young migrants and local children. To build the library’s collection, IBBY Italia gathered outstanding wordless picture books from 23 countries.

To showcase the library, Silent Books: Final Destination Lampedusa, an exhibit of more than 100 renowned wordless picture books, has been touring around the world. Following stops in Italy, Mexico and Austria, in Canada the Silent Books exhibit has travelled to Edmonton, Vancouver, and Toronto where it will be on display until December 11, 2015.

These wordless picture books have a universal language of images and art, bypassing age, culture and language barriers, to offer readers a unique but shared reading experience.

In honour of the exhibit, original art by Sydney Smith from theIbby ribbon cutting Canadian wordless picture book Sidewalk Flowers will be on display.

Living Toronto attended the launch of the exhibit hosted by Shannon Babcock, President, IBBY Canada; Vickery Bowles, City Librarian, Toronto Public Library; Alessandro Ruggera, Director, Istituto Italiano di Cultura, Toronto; and Deborah Soria, Silent Books Project Director, IBBY Italia.

If anyone is going to save the world from itself, it’s book lovers. IBBY was founded in Zurich, Switzerland in 1953. Today, it is composed of more than seventy National Sections all over the world. IBBY’s founder, Jella Lepman, believed that books could build bridges of understanding and peace between people. IBBY Canada’s National Section, focuses on enacting positive change through children’s literature.

Toronto members are actively involved in the Lampedusa project and the co-organizer of the exhibit, Mariella Bertelli, says that IBBY has plans to help the children of Syrian Refugees arriving in Canada. More on this and other IBBY projects coming soon.“The Silent Books exhibit”, Mariella adds with her typical and infectious exuberance, “will proceed to Halifax Public Libraries and Winnipeg Public Library, YAY! It will stay in Canada until March, very exciting.” The Italian Cultural Institute of Toronto and the Consulate in Montreal are sponsoring the exhibits in these two extra locations.  Fantastico!

Ibby child taking book

– Elizabeth Cinello
Photos by Elizabeth Cinello

This article can be found in GOING OUT in the section What We’re Seeing.


A splendid project. Thank you, Elizabeth, for this article. So many wordless languages!
Martha Baillie, Toronto

What a marvellous cause for children to begin a life long love for books. This is an important project. Especially now with so many children with different languages and reading skills. They can all learn, relate and enjoy book.. And find a common ground together.
Thank you Elizabeth for bring this wonderful project to your avid readers attention, me included!
Susan Lecar, Toronto


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