BASEL, Switzerland – Empress Michiko on Sunday urged members of a conference on children’s literature here to help the many children who are deprived of the joy of reading and are forced to live in fear and dread in strife-torn areas.
“All of us are aware of the fact that there are children in the world today who are not only deprived of books but even opportunities to learn how to read and write, for economic or social reasons,” the Empress told an audience of about 400 at the congress to mark the 50th anniversary of the International Board on Books for Young People, a global network dedicated to promoting children’s literature.
“It will not do for us to shed tears over the plight of these children, and just pity them as poor unfortunates,” the Empress said. “Rather, I would place my hope in such children, for they might lead our world of tomorrow with the new wisdom that only those who have experienced utmost sorrow and pain and yet survived them could possess.”
In her 18-minute speech, the Empress appealed to the audience to “trust the great potentialities of those children who are struggling with adversity” and to “never lose them from your sight.”
Recounting her own experience, the 67-year-old mother of three said she felt both immense joy and indescribable anxiety in raising and protecting her children.
“Those were the days I could not help but pray that the world into which our children grow to live may be peaceful, for every turbulent incident in the world seemed so close to me then,” she said.
She also cited a passage from a poem penned by the late Teruyo Takeuchi that she described as unforgettable during her child-rearing days. She said the poem was a call to a mother never to “let her shadow fall upon the newly born” and impede the child’s potential.
The Empress arrived in Switzerland on Saturday and will take part in various events at the congress before returning home Thursday.