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August 18, 2022

Meet the book whisperer- Anamaria Vition

By Anamaria Olaru

In the past few months, life has brought me face to face with some incredibly inspiring people. One of them is Anamaria Vition, an energetic young woman who is determined to make reading a memorable part of every child’s life.

She is the founder of the Romanian library for children in Belgium (Biblioteca Prichindeilor din Belgia) and regularly organizes reading and creative workshops. She is adamant about the importance of reading to kids early on and she will literally move mountains just to get parents and children hooked on her fascinating Romanian book collection.

Here are some questions that I was curious to ask her:


How did you come up with the idea of creating a library for Romanian kids in Belgium?


For me, there is no larger goal in life than to create. I am always preoccupied to create purpose in my life and pursue it passionately.

This initiative came from my need to connect with the Romanian community. When I first came to Belgium, I didn’t know anyone here and I needed anchoring. I was lucky to came across Ana Răduleț, who is the founder of the Romanian kids library in Prague and our shared passion for books inspired me to open a similar library here in Belgium. Now, there is a chain of Romanian libraries for kids in Italy (Bologna), Spain (Tarragona), Finland (Helsinki), Poland (Kraków), Croatia and Denmark. We were all inspired by Ana’s project and we all use the same online platform for our libraries, but we function separately.


Why was this initiative needed in Belgium?


Well, first of all, I took this initiative out of personal interest. I already had a big book collection for my daughter and I wanted to share it with other parents who want to keep the Romanian language alive and present in their children’s identity. My goal was to build a community around it.

These kind of initiatives should exist in any country that hosts a large community of Romanians. There are 105,358 Romanians currently living in Belgium and it is our duty to keep our language alive. And what better way to do that than through books and reading at a very early age?


Tell me more about your library please.


My collection is for children ranging from 0 to 18 years old, and I currently have 412 books. I have very special, original books, beautifully illustrated with deep and positive messages that will inspire our children to be kind and involved members of the society.

To become a member of the library, you need to send me your email address. I will create your username and password and you will soon have access to our catalog. You can choose up to 5 books for 4 weeks. Once your selection is finished, we can establish the time and place to meet. The library is located near Roeselare, West Flanders, so if you leave 20 km further, we can meet half way or use the postal service.


How do you get your books?


Many of them I bought, but I also received many donations which I am very thankful for. I received books from Romanian embassies and institutions, for other fellow Romanians and also from several publishing houses such as Arthur, Cartea Copiilor, Frontiera, Katarsis, Panda, Signatura and Univers. I also receive books through the #imparte cartea (#share the book) initiative. This way, I can also borrow books myself and make them accessible to other people through my library.


What cities did you manage to reach through your library?


Antwerp, Brussels, Deinze and Roeselare.


What was the biggest challenge during this process?


I faced two main barriers during this process. A mental barrier from some parents living in industrial areas in Belgium. The interest in books is lower and lower unfortunately, and they see going to the library or reading as a hurdle or something unnecessary.

And the other barrier has been the lack of a coherent and united policy at institutional level regarding Romanian expatriates. The institutional approach regarding the Romanian language and culture is still old-fashioned and exclusivist. The integration programs depend on who is running the show and there is a lack of coherence and collaboration amongst the institutions here.

I found it very difficult to be heard by other institutions. My initiative was met with a lot of suspicion, doubt and lack of interest. It is very frustrating and sad to see. These are some of the same reasons why I left Romania. Unfortunately, you still find these issues here amongst our community.


What does the Romanian community in Belgium need?


The Romanian community is very much divided. Some parts of the community are tied to churches and others around the Romanian traditional values. But if none of these resonate with your interests, as a Romanian, you are lost. There isn’t another alternative for Romanians.


So, does your library offer an alternative to the Romanian community?


Yes! The library doesn’t divide people. I want to connect all people, from all backgrounds around books. Books are for everyone: believers, non-believers, conservatives, liberals. Reading is universal.


I saw that you also organize reading workshops for kids. Can you tell me more?


Yes, I organize workshops for kids of 0 to 6 years old. The feedback is mostly encouraging, especially the one coming from the kids. They are attentive, engaged, they like to connect through books. It gives me a lot of positive energy.


 What advice do you give parents regarding reading?


Reading or storytelling promotes brain development and imagination. It develops language and emotions and most importantly it strengthens the relationship between parent and child.

There isn’t such a thing as reading too early. Only unsuitable books or moods.

There isn’t such a thing as reading too early. Only unsuitable books or moods.


What are your top favorite books that you would recommend?


The Hospital Dog by Julia Donaldson

Sleep like a Tiger by Mary Logue

Smon Smon by Sonja Danowski

The Why, Why, Why Collection

The My friend Conni Collection


Where can we see your upcoming activities?


You can follow me on Facebook and Instagram.


What struck me when I spoke with Anamaria is her force, her energy and her willingness to travel all over Belgium just to get parents and kids reading. Whenever she hears a Romanian voice, she immediately stops to make conversation. She is curious about the Romanian community. She wants to personally know every user of her library and wants to truly connect with them. She wants to understand their needs and to tackle any challenge standing in their way of getting to her books. No matter the travel distance, she will make it happen.

 Out of her own budget, she takes extreme care of her marketing visuals. She spends nights cutting, pasting and preparing creative materials for her workshops. She has a natural marketing strategy which has the sole purpose of encouraging children to read. Anamaria is a woman, a mother and an ardent advocate. She is a force who deserves support and admiration. Thank you Anamaria for your mission to bring people closer to books.


 About the author of this article:


Anamaria Olaru is  the founder of the Nature and Books (www.natureandbooks.com ) website in Brussels. She advocates for nature and books for the young generation.

Nature and Books offers captivating information about nature and recommends books, activities and events that will trigger a passion early on for reading and outdoor adventures.


Photo credits: I. Vition

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