Muna Kalati advocated for more diversity in global children literature at IBBY Russia 2021

From the 9th to 12 September 2021, Muna Kalati was represented through its Director Christian Elongué at the 37th Ibby Children’s Book International Congress In Moscow, under the theme «Great Big World Through Children’s Books: National and Foreign Literature — Role, Value, Impact on Young Readers in Different Countries». It was an opportunity to explore diversity of themes, characters, issues in children’s literature of the world, to discuss cultural variety which doesn’t prevent them from interweaving and interacting.

Even though the preparation of the bit were quite challenging because of the COVID pandemic, the event was highly successful with delegates from over 56 countries reunited to explore on trending issues affecting the global children book industry.

On September 9, 2021, he visited the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Artsthe Dal State Museum of History of Russian Literaturethe Russian State Library, the Library for Foreign Literature and the publishing house ‘Samokat’ where he was surprisingly noticed that black African children books were difficultly available in the existing collections and this triggered collaboration to increase not only the awareness but also the availability and access of quality children books from African authors and illustrators in Russian libraries and bookstores.

On September 10, 2021, during the Opening Ceremony, our executive Director Christian Elongué gave a highly acclaimed keynote lecture on the need to increase diversity in children literature by making sure that African, Black and Latino American children books were accessible to all children. His speech arouse interest on Cameroonian children books publishers and the work that is being done by digital platforms to increase access to diverse content to kids so that there would be more international understanding and peace across culture. His presentation could be viewed here and the PowerPoint is available here.

Diversity in World Kid Literature: An African Perspective by Christian Elongué

Elongue also contributed to the round table discussions with the laureates of the H. C. Andersen Award:

  • Albertine (Switzerland) – book illustrator, laureate of the HCAA (2020)
  • Jacqueline Woodson (USA) — writer, laureate of the HCAA (2020)
  • Roger Mellо (Brazil) – illustrator, laureate of the HCAA (2014)
  • David Almond (Great Britain) – writer, laureate of the Hans Christian Andersen Award (2010)
  • Cao Wenxuan (China) – novelist, professor, laureate of the HCAA (2016)
  • Igor Oleynikov (Russia) – book illustrator, laureate of HCAA (2018).

He contributed by emphasizing the gender and racial barriers that women or people of minorities may encounter in the children book industry and also shared ways to promote tolerance and respect for diverse cultures by providing access to the best of children’s literature from around the world.


Christian Elongué at the The Hans Christian Andersen Awards 2020

On September 11, 2021, the winners of The Hans Christian Andersen Awards 2020, writer Jacqueline Woodson from the United States and artist Albertina from Switzerland, received their awards at the Pashkov House

Elongué was also a representative of IBBY Cameroon which officially joined IBBY since 2017 thanks to the dynamism of Mr. Joel Eboueme. On September 11, during panel sessions on global children literature, Christian Elongué, as the representative of IBBY Cameroon how parents have little access to the books and stories from their youth to pass on to the next generation.

Many children in Africa grow up without knowledge of their family’s heritage and first language.  A fundamental principle of IBBY Cameroon is that children and their families deserve to have access to the books of their culture. IBBY Cameroon works collaboratively with Muna Kalati to promote books that represents outstanding historical and contemporary books from Africa and throughout the world. 


On that same day, the Russian State Children’s Library held the awarding ceremony of diplomas of the IBBY Honour List. The diplomas were personally awarded to Samah Abu Bakr Ezzat, a writer from Egypt, Russian artist Olga Monina, translators Daniel González-Muniz from Costa Rica, João Guimarães from Brazil, Olga Drobot and Olga Vasilyeva from Russia and Ivan Pilkin from Moldova.

On Sunday 12th September, 2021, our executive Director facilitated another panel discussion around his paper on Cameroon’ children and young adult literature from 1956 to 2016. He indicated the history of Cameroonian children book publishers such as Akoma Mba, CLE, and association such as AILE Cameroon, in the development of Cameroon children literature; highlighted the fact that most illustrators and authors of Cameroonian children books were residing in France, Belgium or Europe and the influence of French publishers on the local book industry since most educational texbooks and learning materials are produced by French publishers.

That Sunday, there was also a presentation on the book on the history of Bookbird magazine by Valerie Coghlan and Evelyn Freeman. Apart from active work and professional experience exchange, participation in the Congress, brought him joy of companionship, feeling of being a part of the community of colleagues and friends, new social interactions and amazing sightseeing in Moscow.

On September 12, 2021, the 37th IBBY World Congress was over. For three days, Moscow was the central place for discussion on children’s literature’s most relevant issues. Projects on promotion of children’s reading, reports on the influence of books on personality development, discussions on the details of creating literature for children and teenagers – all this and much more were in the focus of Congress participants’ attention. During the closing ceremony, Christian Elongué encouraged all children book actors to continue creating outstanding children books that exhibits tolerance and respect for diverse cultures, languages and ideas.


Being a member and taking active part in IBBY programmes and projects is a unique opportunity to stay involved in a global community of specialists on children’s and young adult’s literature and in modern global book culture in general. It was a great honour for Muna Kalati and IBBY Cameroon and we feel joy and, of course, responsibility. International partnerships in every part of our lives become increasingly valuable and important in this troubled world, and thus the IBBY mission is so vital.

Closing Ceremony from Ibby Russia

Joint work of representatives of dozens of countries, whose main goal is to familiarize and expose children to the best books, is a bridge between people that helps us to understand each other better and to build good neighbourly relations between countries; it is a genuine path to mutual respect and friendship.

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