2019 Project: A picture book for children

The reason why I did this project is that I realized through my volunteering activities at ICU and during my stay at Tenryuu Village and attending Tenryuu’s nursery that Japanese children really like picture books. I wanted to do something so that the children could know more about where I come from and about a culture different than theirs, so I decided to create a picture book about Mexico for them.

I am by no means an expert in Mexico or intercultural communication, but I included things that I thought the kids would like to know about the country and answers to some questions they had asked me through my stay at Tenryuu. I noticed that unlike in Tokyo, Tenryuu didn’t have a lot of children’s educational materials about other countries so I also thought that I could make some for them.

At first, I thought that it might be a bit of unsolicited advice and that they didn’t have any because they really didn’t need some, but they reassured me it was fine and welcome. Someone at the library told me that someone else not from Tenryuu created a kami-shibai (picture theater) about the story of Tenryuu and left a copy in the library. They used design application software, but in the end, I decided to use Microsoft Word because I am more familiar with it. Their advice was very valuable.

Also, I am by no means an expert in graphic design, nor an artist, but I thought that my previous experience in doing something similar for Mitaka’s nursery would come in handy. I thus created the design in Microsoft Word with images I took from the internet and my own pictures to create a mini-encyclopedia about Mexico for kids. I created a cover picture and a back cover and printed it with the help of the local government.  In terms of content, I tried to include Tenryu in the picture and make it interactive to their own cultural context so that it wouldn’t be like a one-sided lecture about Mexico without their input.

In terms of a finished product, I originally wanted to print it as an actual picture book with a hardcover and glossy paper so I could leave it in the library. With the time constraint in mind, in the end Naitou-san from the local government office offered to print them in his office in a newspaper-like fashion. This allowed for the wide distribution of it to individual families. Since it is in an electronic format as well, it can be reprinted. I am currently evaluating the possibility of printing it for real in a book format and sending it to them so that they can at least have one in the library.

I was very worried about it and the reception it would have since, unlike the other program participant’s projects, I believed at first that my project did not have as much impact in the community. However, when people who had kids received they were very happy with it and it made me realize that in fact, I had created something useful in some way or another. I believe that education and childcare are very important for the nurture of society and a community, and I am glad that I could contribute to Tenryu village’s cultural capital.

I am happy about the way it turned out and people’s comments and reception to it made me really happy. I hope that in future projects we continue to produce things that are useful for Tenryu Village. At the end of this post, you can find the pdf of it. Let me know what you think!

-Sofia Ginard

Picture Book Mexico