Monday, 10 May 2010

Outside In

This week’s interview is with Edgardo Zaghini of Outside In, a UK organisation that supports the translation of children’s books from overseas.

What does Outside In do?
Outside In is the UK organisation dedicated to promoting, exploring and celebrating books from around the world, particularly children's books in translation. We are a small organisation with big ideas. We find innovative ways to introduce UK audiences to books, writers and illustrators from around the world, particularly children’s books in translation.

Outside In was established following the success of Outside In: Children’s Books in Translation, written by Deborah Hallford and myself, and published by Milet in 2005 and supported with a grant by the Arts Council of England.

We were officially launched in April 2007 at the International Bologna Children’s Book Fair with help from The Gruffalo’s Axel Scheffler.

We are a small team of freelance children’s book specialists, ensuring minimal overheads so vital funds goes straight to the core activity. The team is supported by a highly skilled and experienced board of trustees and Patrons (who include Axel Scheffler, Wendy Cooling, Sarah Ardizzone and Carla Poesio).

Why is it important for children’s fiction to be translated into English?
At Outside In, we believe that UK audiences have the right to enjoy books from all over the world and that these books should be readily translated into English.

As well as introducing new writing and illustration, exploring these books can help readers to explore and make sense of the world and can increase cross-cultural understanding, respect and dialogue.

Children in the UK have extremely limited access to books from around the world. Under 3% of children’s books published in the UK were originally written in a language other than English, whilst on the continent around 40% of books for children are typically translated from another country.

What is your proudest achievement to date?
It has to be our first project: ‘Reading Round the World’ which was developed with the specific aim of responding to children’s lack of exposure to books from other countries by delivering a programme of innovative, fun and highly interactive events across the UK.

‘Reading Round the World’ events explored books from all over the world, particularly books in translation. They also promoted cross-cultural awareness and understanding and, importantly, did not just introduce children to the books themselves, but also to their creators, by bringing international artists from a range of countries around the world into children’s own classrooms to interact and engage with UK audiences.

Through the programme, classrooms, libraries and public spaces across the UK have welcomed artists from Argentina, France, Germany, Iceland, Japan, New Zealand, Poland, Spain (Catalonia), Sweden, Thailand and the UK. The workshops were fun, highly participative and carefully tailored to meet the specific needs of each audience. The programme has also included a number of events aimed at adult audiences.

‘Reading Round the World’ was funded by the Arts Council of England together with other partnership funding.

Here are some statistics:

• 43 Events - 38 workshops with schools and libraries and five adult events
• Activity reached over 1,000 children, as well as 250 adults through adult events.
• The ages of the children and young people ranged from Year 1 – Year 13 (ages 5 – 18)
• 24 children and young people in foster care
• Children with behavioural problems, learning disabilities and physical disabilities.
• 98.5% of participating children enjoyed their involvement in the programme.
• 89% of children stated that their involvement had made them want to read more books from other countries.

What is your own favourite children’s book in translation?
There are so many excellent books in translation both old and new, but if I have to choose one in particular it has to be Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kastner with illustrations by Walter Trier and first published in English in 1931. The idea of a young boy’s adventure in a big city like Berlin before the war is both irresistible and highly enjoyable even today after 80 years of its publication.

How can people find out more and get involved?
We work with schools, libraries and other organisations. If you have any ideas or would like to get involved please contact us by email on You can also find our more about our work by visiting our website which features more than 600 children’s books that have been translated into English. Here you can also browse or search by continent, country and age group.

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