Silent Books: wordless picture-books for refugees

The exhibition is designed to draw attention to the key role that silent books can play in crossing cultural boundaries and promoting literacy. Eventually, the selection grew to more than 100 books, drawn from writers from more than 20 countries. From simple and linear tales like Waves to more complex stories like Shaun Tan’s The Arrival, they present stories that build on universal experiences, as well as metaphorical worlds that echo particular contemporary situations. Although the books have no text, they are rich in a visual language that allows the reader to place themselves within the picturebook. One full set of books was delivered to the library in Lampedusa, and a further set became part of a travelling exhibition, which arrived in Ireland earlier this month. You can browse the Silent Books collection at Ballyroan Library until April 18th; at Tallaght Library from April 19th-28th; at DLR Lexicon from May 2nd-29th; and Tralee LIbrary from June 2nd-18th. iBbY got involved by helping to select a variety of ‘silent books’ that could bridge cultural and linguistic boundaries through the universal power of imagery. The exhibition is designed to draw attention to the key role that silent books can play in crossing cultural boundaries and promoting literacy. How can a book speak when it has no words? Powerfully, through pictures alone. iBbY Ireland have organised a series of hands-on activities to enhance engagement with the books, from story-time to illustration and writing workshops with local librarians and picturebook makers including Children’s Laureate PJ Lynch, Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick, Debbie Thomas and Tatyana Feeney. The exhibition originated in 2012 as a response to the current refugee crisis, when a local library in Lampedusa, an island in southern Italy that had become a haven for refugees travelling across the Mediterranean Sea, saw firsthand how wordless books opened up an opportunity for refugees to share worlds and experiences with each other.The books also provided a concrete route into the new language for refugees. This is the emphatic answer provided by Silent Books, an exhibition of wordless picture-books curated by iBbY, the international network working to bring books and children together, which is currently on tour throughout Ireland.