Sapporo Library Donates Cloth Picture Books to Children from Ukraine

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Tsugumasa Takakura holds up a picture book at Fukinotou Bunko Library in Sapporo.

A Sapporo-based foundation that produces easy-to-read books for children with disabilities or those with reduced vision donated 38 cloth-made and other picture books to Ukrainian children who have taken refuge in Japan because of Russia’s invasion of their country.

“The children must be having a hard time living in an unfamiliar place for a long time. I hope the picture books will bring some comfort to them,” said Tsugumasa Takakura, 85, the president of Fukinotou Bunko based in Chuo Ward, Sapporo.

The donations were made in June and September last year through the Japanese Board on Books for Young People.

“Children who do not speak Japanese must also be able to enjoy them,” Takakura said.

In a corner of the Fukinotou Bunko Library, which is run by the foundation, there is a section for picture books made of colorful felt, fasteners, buttons and strings.

Characters and animals made of felt are sewn into the fabric pages, with stories and dialogues written in oil-based pen. Some books can be opened with zippers and buttons, which can be useful for the functional training of hands and fingers. The books are soft to the touch and do not contain much text.

“Parents and children can enjoy them while talking to each other. They can even create their own stories while reading them,” Takakura said. “Because the text is minimal, the books can be enjoyed in various ways.”

The foundation opened the library in Nishi Ward, Sapporo, in 1982, aiming to “bring the joy of books to every child.” The library, which also houses general picture books, has a workshop for making children’s and other books with enlarged texts for people with reduced vision in addition to cloth picture books. The library moved to its current location in 2013.

About 50 volunteers lent a hand making the cloth picture books. The work is painstakingly slow, and it sometimes takes several months to produce a single page, but they have been sold to schools for the visually impaired and libraries nationwide.