Report from IRSCL Congress, Stockholm City Conference Centre (Norra Latin), 14-18 August

Hello from Stockholm! It’s been a busy five days of presentations on the Congress theme of “Silence and Silencing in Children’s Literature,” dinners, and all manner of social events. And of course we Canadians made up for a good number of the attendees! With almost 500 people from over 50 countries, Canada stood strong with well over 30 attendees. While we were not able to make it to every presentation (some sessions had up to 13 concurrent panels), we wanted to make sure to highlight a few presentations and give an account of our time in Sweden attending and participating on panels, enjoying exhibitions and creative talks, and encouraging new members to join IBBY Canada.

Panels throughout the week covered many thought-provoking topics, including silencing of/speaking for animals (Peter Cumming), Indigenous representation (Cheryl Cowdy), immigrant and refugee narratives (Lesley Clement, Genevieve Brisson), rape narratives (Roxanne Harde), LGBTQ+ literature (Rob Bittner), memes as a form of children’s literature (Bonnie Tulloch), and much more. It was interesting to hear many of these presentations for their own merits, but also to see and listen to the reactions from others who study in different cultural contexts.

Here are some highlights from each of us:

Rob: One of my own highlights, was the reception at Stockholm City Hall. The building is impressive enough on the outside, but the inside is even more incredible. The Blue Hall (which isn’t actually blue) is where the Nobel Prizes are given out, and a staircase at the far end leads up to the Golden Hall (which is VERY golden) where we were addressed by a representative of Stockholm City Council as well as Vanessa Joosen from the University of Antwerp, each of whom spoke about the impacts of children’s literature on their respective communities and the world at large. Food and wine were not in short supply!

One of the highlights in terms of panels was definitely the #MeToo panel on which Roxanne Harde presented. She looked at the prevalence of rape narratives and emphasized how such texts can be used in educational settings. Highlighting a number of novels, Roxanne also looked at a few Canadian texts such as The Taming (Teresa Toten and Eric Walters). While the topic of the panel was heavy, discussions afterward were productive, and the presentations themselves showcased a number of useful texts and teaching approaches that I’m hoping to bring to my own teaching soon.

Lesley: I particularly enjoyed an evening at Junibacken, Stockholm’s cultural centre for children with exhibitions and an Astrid Lindgren Story Train. Nils Nyman, Astrid Lindgren’s grandson, welcomed us, followed by two interview panels, one with Swedish author Sara Bergmark Elgren and Danish writer Martin Glaz Serup, another with Finnish illustrator Linda Bondestam and Norwegian writer-illustrator Stian Hole. We rounded the evening off with a Swedish plated dinner and a tour of the facility.

For me, one of the highlights of the Congress program was the workshop on “Listening to Silenced Voices in the Post-TRC Era in Canada,” led by several people involved with the “Six Seasons of the Asiniskow Ithiniwak: Reclamation, Regeneration, and Reconciliation Partnership Project”: Margaret Dumas, a Grade 5 teacher at Wapanohk Community School, a Cree bilingual school in Thompson, Manitoba, and a member of the project’s Curriculum team; Mavis Reimer, who is Project Director at the University of Winnipeg; and Naomi Hamer, from Ryerson, who is a collaborator on the project. The workshop introduced the project and demonstrated the picturebook and app Pīsim Finds Her Miskanow, which is currently being developed for middle-years classrooms. More information on the project can be found here:

We are already starting to think about the next IRSCL Congress to be held in Santiago, Chile, 27-31 July 2021.

Rob Bittner, Regional Councillor West
Lesley Clement, Reginal Councillor Ontario

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