In 2015, the United Nations General Assembly set a collection of Sustainable Development Goals for the year 2030. The worldwide wish list begins with no poverty and includes gender equality, clean water and sanitation, and affordable and clean energy.
The International Publishers Association (IPA) is expressly supporting SDG 4 (quality education) through organizing and supporting a global children’s book club.
Michiel Kolman, IPA presidential envoy for diversity and inclusion, first envisioned the SDG Book Club. In a 2019 CCC podcast, Kolman, who is a Senior VP of Information Industry Relations and Academic Ambassador at Elsevier, described how he rallied publishers around the world to join him.
“The IPA and the UN have had a pretty good relationship for many, many years,” Kolman said. “So we came together, thought, what could we do together? And we thought of a book club around the SDGs for children. You can imagine you’re a young boy in Peru, and you can read in your own language – in Spanish, for instance – about clean water and sanitation. Or you’re a young girl in China, and you can read in Chinese about gender equality.”
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At the Bologna Children’s Book Fair last month, SDG Book Club organizers celebrated the recent completion of readings lists for all 17 SDGs. On Tuesday this week at the 2022 London Book Fair, Michiel Kolman will chair a special program celebrating the SDG Book Club.
Among those joining the London panel discussion on sustainability in children’s literature will be Olatoun Gabi-Williams, a founding organizer of the African Chapter of the UN SDG Book Club and owner of Borders: Literature for all Nations, an online, print, and live platform for authors and members of the book trade based in Nigeria.
“When I founded Borders in 2015, the vision was to promote African literature as far and as wide as possible. When I heard about the global UN SDG Book Club, I was so excited,” she recalls.
“We have books that push boundaries and challenge and provoke,” she tells me. “I love the way the SDGs undergird the human rights. Children should grow up knowing their rights, and human rights undergird what we’re trying to do with the SDGs to make the world a better place.”
Also in a partnership with IPA, Simbi, a reading and learning platform, is organizing an online read-a-thon for books in the SDG Book Club. Simbi founder and CEO Aaron Friedland says the book club offers “content that really motivates children and that really inspires people to be the next generation of leaders that we want to see in the world. The read-a-thon is a really exciting model. It’s a great way to foster community and to also foster a little friendly competition to inspire reading.”
As the online publication Our World in Data has recognized, “the breadth of the 17 goals, their 169 targets and 232 indicators mean all countries face a significant challenge … in delivering these commitments.”
The great hope, however, is that everyone can contribute to progress for the goals and sustainable development for all.