The BILL, Biblioteca della Legalità (Library of Legality), project - curated by IBBY Italia, a historic association for the promotion of reading and access to books for all girls and boys - was created to spread the culture of legality and justice among the younger generations, promoting education for adults, through a Circulating Library, made up of texts addressed to young readers, contained in cases and that the various institutions can reserve and use.
The association also recently presented at the Turin Book Fair an anthology entitled Arboreti di carta e alberi per la vita (Paper Trees and Trees for Life), a long reflection on the tree, masterfully questioning possible ways to halt the environmental decline we are experiencing. The book contains 101 titles for children, teenagers but also adults around the theme of nature, to stimulate critical thinking on the subject and suggest possible courses of action.
We discuss this in more detail with Flavia Cristiano, President of IBBY.
I would start by asking you about the genesis of BILL, Biblioteca della Legalità, curated by IBBY Italia.
The Library of Legality, abbreviated as BILL, was born in the Legality Farm in Isola del Piano (PU), an asset taken away from organized crime and entrusted for management in 2011 to the Libera Association - Pesaro and Urbino Section.
In that context, several people linked to institutions and associations are called to act, giving life to the BILL, Library of Legality, where the second 'L' stands for Libera, understood both as the founding Association, but also as an adjective, precious for constitutional legality. The BILL is therefore founded by a network composed of Ibby Italia - which will soon become its coordinator by virtue of its particular mission; the Fattoria della Legalità Association; the Municipality of Isola del Piano; the National Association of Magistrates - Subsection of Pesaro; the AIB (Italian Library Association) - Marche Section; Libera - Pesaro and Urbino Section; the Book Forum; the ISIA of Urbino.
The aim is to spread, through books, a culture of constitutional legality and justice among the younger generations.
BILL places at the center of its action the pairing of reading and legality, in the conviction that 'stories' play a fundamental role both in the elaboration of complex thought and in the understanding of reality, and are therefore the indispensable tools for promoting the values of justice and responsibility, in order to build among the young a shared but not uniform, rigorous but not suffocating, elevated but not pedantic imagination, within which respect for rules, but first and foremost respect for others, acquires primary value.
What are the projects that BILL/IBBY carries out for adults and children?
The BILL project, which started in the Marche region, is now present in 25 territories in our country, where it has brought selected books and training activities.
In fact, BILL has two paths to follow, both of which are necessary for a reading and book habit to take root among boys and girls, boys and girls.
A circulating library - 202 basic titles including illustrated books, fiction, non-fiction, and comics - which travels in suitcases and which schools, libraries, and associations can book and keep for a certain period. This temporary presence of BILL books in every location should not be seen as a limitation, but as a solicitation: to go to libraries and bookshops, to demand a library in schools, to understand that the encounter with books should not be taken for granted, but is a commitment that must be renewed.
The circulating library is linked to a permanent and widespread training that addresses and deepens with adults - teachers, librarians, parents, and in general "responsible adults" who believe in the value of books and reading - the themes of justice, freedom, legality, which they will then find in books and on which they will discuss with younger people.
The BILL working group, within IBBY Italy, works to periodically produce bibliographies necessary for the development of the Reading and Legality binomial. At present, bibliographies have been published in four anthologies: the first, from 2017, contains the basic bibliography; in 2018, a bibliography of 101 classic titles was added (‘Il diritto di Leggere Classico’); in 2020, the third bibliography offers a selection of titles by Gianni Rodari ('Il coraggio di sognare in grande'). Last, this year, Paper Arboreta and Trees for Life.
Paper Arboreta and Trees for Life is an anthology with a topical, fundamental and complex theme. How do you intend to disseminate its bibliographic content and what feedback did you receive at the recent Turin Book Fair?
Arboreta is already traveling all over Italy thanks to the meetings organised by IBBY, such as the one at the Turin Book Fair, where there was a large response from teachers and where a discussion was opened up that we will cultivate: that of the 'constitution of the Earth', for which we are accompanied by outstanding constitutionalists such as Luigi Ferrajoli, Francesco Bilancia, Quirino Camerlengo and many others belonging to the Salviamo la Costituzione association, with whom we have already held several national meetings. The meeting, moreover, will soon be visible, like all the others, on the BILL YouTube channel.
All regional and territorial BILLs will address the themes of the new anthology, which from September will be taken to schools to start again - or rather continue - a great work.
Is the tree the absolute protagonist of this new anthology? What motivated you to choose it?
We had been talking about 'trees' for some time in the national coordination of BILL: out of a common passion for certain books and certain topics, and certainly because of the pressing theme of the environmental and climate emergency. The BILL bibliographies born after the first one - the basic one - arise from discussions and comparisons that start from the small group that constitutes the heart of BILL and expand to the members and associates of IBBY Italia: who better than them to make reading suggestions?
Trees have become the absolute protagonists of this latest anthology, responding to a widespread environmental sensitivity; as the BILL group writes in the introduction, "it seems no coincidence that shortly before this anthology went to press, parliament approved by a very large majority the constitutional law 1/2022, which includes among the fundamental rights the principle of protecting the environment, biodiversity and ecosystems, in the interest of future generations."
But - as Professor Bilancia emphasised at the meeting at the Turin Salon - writing is only the first step: now each of us must do our part, take this constitutional norm by the hand and make it happen. This is what we are doing with BILL: taking the Constitution by hand and making the community of its interpreters grow.
May we already ask what future projects you are working on?
As far as the Library of Legality is concerned, the group is thinking of a web radio to keep all BILLs connected and make them more and more united, in their differences. Because each territory has its own network and its own modes of action.
Then, as Rodari taught us and continuing on the path traced by Jella Lepman, our 'dreaming big' will be realised with a European BILL and then who knows with a perhaps world BILL to be launched during the 2024 International Congress: a bridge of books to continue to raise new free, responsible and pacifist generations.