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Children become readers on their parents' laps

When the books go marching in - for 11th year in a row in Bulgaria

Desislava Alexieva publishes children's books in Ukrainian and donates them to reception centers across Bulgaria

Photo: library

Little Mermaid,Ugly Duckling, Little Match Girl, and Thumbelina - fables so well known around the globe. Regardless of skin color, ethnicity, mother tongue or religion, to the majority of people Hans Christian Andersen's children's stories are among the first guides on the great adventure of Life.

The renowned Danish writer was born on 2 April, and since 1967 the date has been celebrated around the world as International Children's Book Day.

For the last 11 years this date has always marked the start of the National Initiative "The March of the Books", organized by the Bulgarian Book Association. Through fun activities and exciting meetings with celebrities, the organizers aim to promote book reading and literacy among children in kindergartens and schools.

"The habit of reading books must be nurtured and therefore it is extremely important to start at a very early age" - says the President of the Association Desislava Alexieva. She herself is a mother of five children, a publisher of children's literature and the owner of a Café Library in downtown Sofia.

"For the past two years we have had no option but to run the campaign events online, which has its pros and cons. The pros are that we have reached children from all over the country and abroad, so we will keep the online format and some of the events will again be streamed live on our Facebook page. But still - nothing can replace live contact, especially when it comes to books and reading.

We have an important cause - to create a National Strategy for the promotion of reading and books," says Alexieva. Traditionally, "The March of Books" continues until April 23. Patron of the campaign is Bulgarian Vice President Iliana Iotova.

Just a week ago, Desislava Alexieva came back from Bologna, where she participated in the 58th edition of one of the most important international book fairs - The Bologna Children's Book Fair. Bulgaria had a group stand of five publishers.

"Trends are being shown at the Fair and the future of children's books is being outlined," she told Radio Bulgaria.

"The future of children's books is in good story telling which grabs the kids imagination. Through children's books, parents often succeed in helping their children understand the world around them.

And regarding the war in Ukraine, I will tell you that the Ukrainian stand at the Bologna fair was right opposite the Bulgarian one. It had a very strong message - 'Unfortunately, we are not here. We are on the front line. Books are the thing that stays at home when everything else is gone".

The importance of books is that in any situation, they provide comfort and create a common language between children, make them understand the underlying messages. And that sense of community and solace is an extremely important part of children's book publishing."

Through her foundation and with the support of colleagues and friends, Alexieva has donated a a fraction of home comfort in the form of children's books to hundreds of young Ukrainian refugees who have ended up in Bulgaria.

She has managed to publish five children's books in Ukrainian. 1,000 copies have already been distributed to all reception centres in the country. This was her way of saying that those fleeing the war are welcome and we respect their world by giving them a piece of their culture.

"When you run away from war, you take only the bare necessities and, of course, there is no room in your luggage for books. But when you get to safety, it is very important to stay connected to home, and that connection comes through books," the mother of five is convinced. "There's a quote I love: "Children become readers in their parents' laps."

Unfortunately, the latest nationally representative survey by the Bulgarian Book Association shows that young people in this country do not read enough. The decline in reading begins in adolescence. "That is why it is extremely important to conduct initiatives aimed at both children and their parents to show them that reading is not an obligation, but a pleasure," said Desislava Alexieva.

Editor: Elena Karkalanova

Photos: azcheta.bg,, BGNES, library
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