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Children’s books shape the world view we grow up with. It is important for children to be able to recognize themselves in stories, illustrations, and narratives and, at the same time, to learn about the different realities of life around them. Does children’s literature in Germany, Finland and other (Northern) European countries today reflect the diverse societies in which we live, or does it make a growing proportion of its young population invisible?

The focus of the project lies on representation regarding children of colour – always with an intersectional approach. With the term “intersectional” we mean the way in which different types of discrimination (i.e. unfair treatment because of racism, sexism, classism, ableism etc.) are linked to and affect each other. As the Black, lesbian poet and activist Audre Lorde put it: “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-​issue lives.”

Since equal participation is a key question facing Europe’s increasingly diverse societies, the DRIN project addresses the need to empower and enable everyone to participate in our societies. How can alternative, under-represented narratives, voices and images be introduced? What good examples can we share? And what can the various players in this field – authors, illustrators, publishers, libraries, and readers – learn from each other?

Promoting knowledge exchange, empowerment, networking, capacity building, awareness raising and securing outcomes in a (Northern) European context are the main objectives of the project. To secure the intended outcomes, based on the project experiences and events, a guide will be developed which will identify needs, list criteria and frame visions for a more plural children’s literature. The guide will keep knowledge transfer going, even after the end of the project. Another goal of the project is book production. Examples of best practice from around the world will also be brought together to create an archive that will provide inspiration for translations and to create more books that reflect the diversity of our societies.
The Goethe-Institut and its partner organizations, most of whose staff belong to the white majority society, are not shaping the thematic focus of this project alone. Three professionals – illustrator Warda Ahmed from Finland, illustrator EL BOUM and author Chantal-Fleur Sandjon, both from Germany – contribute with their expertise and experience to shape the development of the project and help assess how it meets its targets. In 2021 we will organize webinars, seminars, collaborate with festivals and be at book fairs.

What has happened so far:
At the end of 2018, the Goethe-Institut Finland launched a project dealing with the representation of children in picture books produced in Northern Europe and Germany. Following a seminar in Turku on how children’s literature read in day-care centres and schools in Finland could be made more representative of the country’s population, the project was extended at the end of 2019. In 2020 we organized several webinars to start building a network and to share knowledge.