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Operation "my bag of books" : the book as a vehicle for social cohesion

« Reading is an open door to an enchanted world » said the writer François Mauriac.

This sentence could have described the new project of Libraries Without Borders. This new project, entitled « Mon sac de livres » (« My bag of books »), aims to turn the mere sharing of a book into an act that opens up the world and forges bonds between children from different social backgrounds.

Let’s go back in time to December 2022, to find the pupils of the Vierge Fidèle school thinking about a book they’d like to give to someone. A book they have chosen because it has made a positive impression on them, a book that could have the same impact on another child. Each child writes a short letter to go with the book of their choice, and slips it onto the first page of the book.

Who am I? Why am I offering you this book?... These answers are intended to be read by one of the children currently living in one of the Brussels reception centers for asylum seekers or migrants selected for the project. Through this exchange, LWB Belgium, in partnership with the « Fonds Victor », and thanks to the financial support of the « Fonds Bpost », the COCOF and the King Baudouin Foundation, aims to strengthen the link between newly-arrived children and reading , and to use this opportunity to foster their integration.

To ensure that each child receives a personalized book bag, Libraries Without Borders has prepared 108 named backpacks, each containing :

  • a book donated by a child from the Vierge Fidèle school
  • 4 books selected by LWB according to the child’s age. These included fairy tales, comics, children’s novels, bedtime stories, picture books and popular science books.

Alongside the book bags, the youngest children (0-4 years) received a toy, while the older children (17-18 years) received a book and a sweater.

To make the distribution of the bags a warm and shared moment, the LWB and the Fond Victor teams, as well as the two centers, organized two tea parties for parents and children. Each child then received his or her bag. Both parties took place in high spirits, and with the families present all smiling.

For the pupils of La Vierge Fidèle, the project enabled each child to reflect on the role of reading and to open their minds up to the world. As each school received several books dealing with issues related to migration, teachers were able to discuss this reality with their pupils alongside the book selection.

For the children who took part, the project was a breath of fresh air in an often difficult and repetitive daily routine. It was an opportunity to discover something new, to share a moment with others and, for some of them, to begin creating a link with the language and culture of the host country. To complete the action by reinforcing the taste for reading in a foreign language for most of these children, read-alouds with an actress were organized and will continue in 2023.

Nevertheless, according to the project managers, there are still a number of challenges to be overcome, particularly when it comes to strengthening the links between the children at the school and those at the centers. For its second edition, which will take place before Easter, Libraries Without Borders and the Fonds Victor are already thinking about improving this aspect of the project.

Discover our other actions for refugees in Belgium