Why don’t we just translate existing children’s books?

Apparently it is not common to have children’s books in your own language. That was my biggest revelation of this trip. If you don’t know any better than to walk into a book store and buy a picture book for a five-year-old, then this is a big shock.

A boy dressed in traditional Javanese clothes welcomed us to his school. Photo by Denise Schrama.

Room to Read taught us that is not a habit in Indonesia to read out loud to children or to have children’s books in general. It is not part of their culture. But this same, strong culture has so many beautiful characters that would perfectly fit in a children’s book. That’s the reason why Room to Read and the IKEA Foundation work together to publish high-quality children’s books, written by local authors.

Of course, it would be easier to just translate existing books. But the Indonesian culture has so many beautiful myths and fairy tales that it would be a shame to not use these. The beautiful costumes that the children wore during the welcome ceremony at the school confirms this.

During the trip we also met a local writer and she was extremely thankful for the workshops she got from Room to Read. Before these workshops, she was already an experienced writer and thought that she didn’t need help to write. But she now realises that a children’s book needs to contain more pictures and less text, so children are more eager to read it themselves.

Another big difference for her was the fact that there was an editor. Usually she wrote a book and it got published. But this time an editor gave her feedback about her writing. This gave me the feeling that Room to Read sets high standards which all contributes to great, fun and high-quality children’s books! And on top of that, I am so happy they didn’t “just translate” existing children’s books.

Girls in traditional clothing who participated in the welcome ceremony. Photo by Denise Schrama.


    Denise Schrama