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Bodour Al Qasimi, President of International Publishers Association (IPA), has emphasised the power of literacy to change lives while making a clarion call for closing gaps in accessibility of books for children around the world.

Chairing a panel discussion organised by Book Aid International at the online edition of the London Book Fair held from June 21 to July 1, 2021, Bodour Al Qasimi cited conflict and wars, poor digital infrastructure, absence of a strong library network, and underdeveloped or non-existent publishing as the chief reasons why many communities are without access to books.

As a vital learning resource, books play a crucial role in nourishing children’s imagination, and developing language and critical thinking skills, said Bodour, while speaking at the session titled, ‘Closing the gap: Why access to books matters for children around the world’. Panel members at the session included Sarah Odedina, Editor-at-Large, Pushkin Children’s Books, and co-founder of Accord Literary; Pam Dix, Chair, IBBY UK; Alison Tweed, Chief Executive, Book Aid International; and Sita Brahmachari, one of the most interesting and important voices in contemporary children’s literature who won the prestigious Waterstones Children’s Book Prize in 2011 for her debut novel, Artichoke Hearts.

At another panel discussion curated by Book Machine, Bodour Al Qasimi highlighted the importance of lifelong learning to address the skills gap in the publishing sector and stated that new business models are imperative to cope with the rapid pace of change in the industry.

Mentorship and peer-to-peer knowledge sharing are great learning strategies as it expands the big picture for team members, said Bodour, who was one of the four influential publishing leaders on the panel at the session titled, ‘Leading the way in book publishing’.

The IPA President also called for a collaborative approach based on respect, trust, and transparency to pave the way for innovation and creativity in the publishing industry, while adding that future challenges can be addressed when publishers are able to create the right degree of balance between current market needs, emerging trends including technology, and risk-taking.