August 24th 2022

We've proven ourselves in the uprising, now it's time for strategy.

It's hard to believe, but the war in Ukraine has been going on for nearly six months. The Universal Reading Foundation has been involved in helping Ukrainians from the very beginning. We have succeeded a lot but the enormity of the need remains immeasurable. We describe our journey as an example of what we all experienced: an unheard of, magnificent mass relief spurt in which nothing was impossible and a thousand things happened simultaneously. It is good to remember that we are all capable of such wonderful actions.
So, from the point of view of the Universal Reading Foundation:
We launched a call for help asking for books for Ukrainian children in Poland and funds to help publishers in Ukraine on the second day of the war. Being immersed in research around reading, we see these topics sharply: regular reading with mom, grandmother or aunt (the men are elsewhere...) will be the foundation for rebuilding the sense of security and self-esteem of these children and families. The survival of the Ukrainian publishing industry will be the foundation for the future of democracy in Ukraine. It was clear to us that help in these areas must be organized.
Publishers and distributors responded immediately: Platon and Motyle książkowe distribution companies agreed to handle the logistics and warehousing our operations at no cost, many publishers began donating books to us; Nowa Era publishing house offered to distribute books throughout Poland.

At the same time, illustrators responded immediately - Katarzyna Bogucka shared a drawing of a speeding bicyclist on her page, she allowed us to use this image, and thanks to this we came up with the idea to ask illustrators for graphics to help raise funds. We started getting a lot of moving pictures.
At the same time, already in the first week of the war, we were approached by a Swedish writer and illustrator thanks to publishing house Zakamarki: they had several thousand euros for us from raises thay had already organized within friends. Inspired by this example, we wrote a letter in English to international publishers, which, thanks to the contacts of publishing houses Dwie Siostry, WoltersKluwer, Rebis and CHBeck, was distributed widely among international publishers.
This set off an avalanche: Publishers' Weekly came forward and wrote about us, then the Washington Post and The Christian Science Monitor, renowned American illustrator Sophie Blackall created an illustration urging people to donate to our cause and uploaded it to her social media. We started getting contributions from all sorts of places around the world.
From the beginning, we asked Polish publishers for picture books for young children, with little text, but at the same time, thanks to Krakow Festival Office, we contacted Ukrainian publishers, offering them to send us books, although at that stage we did not yet have funds to support the publishers. We met with a wonderful response - we received a total of nearly 30,000 books from Ukraine, which arrived in Poland in two trucks. The organization of the aid going the other way than all the big aid traffic going into Ukraine (because our trucks were supposed to come to Poland from there!) proved to be surprisingly difficult, especially since we had to organize everything for free. We managed to find two warehouses in Lviv that agreed to collect books from publishers, then, thanks to the help of KBF, Caritas, the Polish Book Chamber, the Customs Department at the Ministry of Finance, the Marshal's office and the Ukrainian House - the two trucks arrived.
At the same time, Polish printers Totem, Druk-Intro, Interak, Sowa, who managed to come to an agreement with Ukrainian publishers and started printing children's books from files obtained from them, also started coming to us very early - our logistical capabilities were an ideal path in their incomplete distribution chain. We received more than 30,000 books in Ukrainian from the printers.
We contacted our friends at the Children's Metropolis Foundation, which at one point launched a raise for a similar purpose - we agreed that we would split the recipients: they took care of the shipments to libraries, we did the rest. Thanks to the incredible commitment of Nowa Era publishing house, Platon distribution, Motyle książkowe, DPD and Inpost (we got the shipments for free), we have distributed nearly 100,000 books to date. We hope to distribute another 50,000 by the end of the year.
Very quickly, writers began to ask how they could participate - and the idea came up to add texts to the illustrators' pictures. That's how "Books Against War" began to emerge.
In the meantime, the raised funds enabled us to offer assistance grants to Ukrainian publishers. We had to act quickly, and thanks to the pro-bono help of the law firm Barembruch and Partners, we managed to efficiently draw up and announce the grant system, to which more than 50 publishers applied. The jury, composed of representation from the Polish Chamber of Books, Krakow Festival Office, Universal Reading Foundation and the Association of Ukrainian Publishers and Booksellers, awarded grants to 51 publishers meeting the competition's requirements (e.g., no financial ties to Russia) for a total of $150,000 (!). Courtesy of BNP Paribas, we were able to do the transfers and currency conversions at no cost - all the funds went to the publishers. The wife of the President of the Republic of Poland assumed honorary patronage of the contest.
In the meantime, writers sent us their texts, renowned graphic designer Dorota Nowacka did the first typesetting of the book, and we decided to consult psychologists about the content. Thanks to an incredible coincidence, we managed to show the book to Konstanty Gebert (aka Dawid Warszawski), who, in his deep wisdom, pointed out to us that war is, of course, a total evil, but we must not offer children a book from which it would appear that war is our whole world. A parent or guardian should be given a tool to talk courageously about war, but a tool that at the same time shows that the world remains beautiful, that evil has not and will not prevail. We listened to the sage and asked the artists for additional texts and illustrations. This is how we came up with "The world is beautiful. A book against war," which will have its premiere on September 15th in Warsaw.
In the meantime, Polish publishers printed their books in Ukrainian and began offering them to us for distribution. We received books (Polish and Ukrainian) from the following publishing houses: Adamada, Agora, A ja czytam, Bosz, Dwukropek, Flosart, HarperKids, Insignis, Mamania, Media Rodzina, Media Service Zawada, Muchomor, Olesiejuk, Powergraph, Poznanskie, Widnokrąg, Wilga, Zakamarki, Znak.
It was all absolutely amazing and beautiful. A state of elation that collectively we probably won't experience again anytime soon. Each of us has strong, uplifting memories of those first months of the war. This will be a generational memory.
Today, we've gotten a little used to it; we've cooled off. Now is the time to build further long-term and strategically thought-through help, which is still and will continue to be vitally needed. Ukrainian publishers are continually coming to us with requests for help. It is also in our own interest to save them. The strength of Ukrainian democracy is in our and the world’s vital interest.
So: If you are still reading this and agree that the issue is important, we invite you to help us You can support the Foundation's activities HERE.

June 8th 2022

#ReadingRules! Poland's first powerful local government campaign for reading is being launched.

The Union of Polish Metropolises, the 12 largest Polish cities, and the Universal Reading Foundation show why reading has the power to improve the world.

#ReadingRules: it's an effort we love, it helps people grow, it's engaging. Like sports. And - as with sports - the upcoming vacations are a great time to read. #ReadingRules: it exercises our mind, makes us "in shape": intellectually, socially and emotionally, stable, healthy, competent! Presidents of twelve Polish metropolises are acting as ambassadors of reading - they are inviting to a semi-private conversation, sharing their literary tastes, showing that #ReadingRules!   Joint personal commitment of the Mayors of the largest Polish cities to promote reading is an expression of concern for the development of their residents.

In light of the events of recent months, we have come to the conclusion that today, like never before, we need to introduce not only necessary short-term actions but also strong long-term actions that build foundations for open, democratic and competent society - and research shows that people who read create such societies. That is why, with even greater commitment, as a group of twelve presidents, we urge with one common voice to read. Not for the sake of beauty, but for democracy, learning and social development of our citizens, cities and country. Because #ReadingRules! - explains Tadeusz Truskolaski, Mayor of Białystok, President of the Board of the Union of Polish Metropolises.

Our citizens have the 'right to read'; this means that we, as city administrators, have a duty to make sure that every citizen is taught and encouraged to read - to be able to judge us and actively participate in civil society, to have the competence to enter into dialogue, so that we can all listen to each other and understand each other, this is extremely important - today as never before in our memory - adds Aleksandra Dulkiewicz, Mayor of Gdansk.

Reading is not elitist - it equalizes the chances of children for success, eliminates competence differences between people; it is not a game of humanists or artists, it is a democratic, freely available and simple way to increase the potential of each of us, not only on the job market. We all have free access to books thanks to a dense network of public libraries - I would like to encourage all (not only) inhabitants of Warsaw to read," stresses Rafał Trzaskowski, Mayor of Warsaw.

We want the citizens of our cities to develop, to build their competences, to be independent, thinking and critical. Let us emphasize: research has shown that reading is the foundation for the development of science and innovation. We encourage citizens to read for their own development, but also for economic development. Reading develops innovation, and without innovation, there is no development, notes Hanna Zdanowska, Mayor of Łódź.

Reading rates in Poland are alarmingly low; we read much less than our neighbors. In light of available research, increasing the number of readers will translate into increasing the potential of our economy, innovativeness and the strength of our democracy. That is why it should be one of one of the top priorities of any influential person - whether it be a company executive caring about the reading of his or her employees and their families, or government officials influencing various areas of our lives, or parents raising their children. For several years the Universal Reading Foundation has been working to raise the issue of growing readership to the level of one of the most important challenges for contemporary Poland. That is why we are very happy to be a part of the #ReadingRules campaign. We invite everyone who cares about the future of our communities to join the project," concludes Maria Deskur, president of the Universal Reading Foundation and head of Słowne Publishing House.

The #ReadingRules campaign is the first in Poland such a strong and broad commitment of the highest local authorities to promote reading.

Communities of people who read create stronger economies and civil societies, actively create their future. OECD studies show that reading improves children's chances for success at school and in their careers. It has been proven that reading bridges status differences, that if a child enjoys reading, this fact will have a greater impact on his/her success than the background from which he/she comes. It has also been proven that reading together with a parent helps in the social-emotional development of children, and reading fiction increases our empathy. Reading is now being called the most significant single factor supporting sustainable development, which is why #ReadingRules.

The campaign is accompanied by videos in which presidents talk about their reading, but also reveal private elements of their habits - we will find out who of them bends corners, who reads in the bathtub, and whose friends didn't return the books borrowed.

The Universal Reading Foundation and the Union of Polish Metropolises, twelve biggest Polish cities: Białystok, Bydgoszcz, Gdańsk, Katowice, Kraków, Lublin, Łódź, Poznań, Rzeszów, Szczecin, Warsaw, and Wrocław - all together - invite you to a great joint effort to increase readership in Poland.

A lot is already happening in the cities, but the pro-reading activities will be strengthened and new ideas will be launched.  The organizers intend the campaign to be a leaven to a gigantic, joint, long-term effort, talks, debates and work towards increasing the number of readers in Poland. Everyone is invited: parents, children, teachers, librarians, local government officials, institutions, companies and NGOs.

June 6th 2022

The Universal Reading Foundation gives grants to over fifty Ukrainian publishers in a program under the honorary patronage of the Spouse of the President of Poland

The grant system was announced on May 3 this year on the website of the Universal Reading Foundation. The partners of the grant program are: KBF - the operator of the programme Krakow City of Literature UNESCO, the Polish Book Chamber and the Association of Ukrainian Publishers and Booksellers. Honorary patronage is held by the First Lady of the Republic of Poland.

The results of the call for proposals were announced today: 51 publishers will receive a total of 150 thousand dollars.

At the moment, the most important thing for Ukrainians is to survive and, after the war is over, to rebuild their homeland. If the aid that is now coming to them is wide enough, they will find it easier to overcome the difficulties to raise their country from ruins. I am therefore very grateful to the Universal Reading Foundation for undertaking the extremely important initiative of supporting Ukrainian publishers who, right now, in the face of the ongoing war, need to receive funds to continue their activities. – The Polish First Lady, Agata Kornhauser-Duda emphasized her patronage over the competition.

We are pleased with the FPC grant competition for Ukrainian publishers, the scale of applications shows how great the need is. - noted Oleksandr Afonin, director of the Association of Ukrainian Publishers and Booksellers.

Many feelings accompany this announcement: great joy that we managed to collect and distribute funds, and at the same time a strong feeling that this is really a tiny bit in the ocean of needs. This is why we are continuing our efforts to support our publishing brothers from Ukraine," said Maria Deskur, president of the Universal Reading Foundation, head of Słowne Publishing House.

The first stage of great emotional support is obviously behind us. Now further systemic help will be extremely important. We are all aware that the survival of the Ukrainian publishing industry will be fundamental for the strength of that democracy. That is why our engagement is not weakening - added Robert Piaskowski, the Plenipotentiary of the President of Cracow for Culture.

Businesses are often not a concern for grant donors. It is understandable but it is worth emphasizing that publishing is a special business: it creates the cultural tissue of a given country and supports the development of subsequent generations of readers. The activity of Ukrainian publishers builds education and development of the Ukrainian society - that is why, it should be supported," underlined Sonia Draga, President of the Polish Book Chamber and Sonia Draga Publishing House.

The Universal Reading Foundation donates funds collected since the beginning of the war. Legal services for the grant competition were provided pro bono by the Barembruch and Partners law firm. Accounting services are provided pro bono by Soltax accounting. Crowdfunding is supported pro bono by Selectivv, communication is carried out pro bono by LoveBrandsGroup agency.

The Foundation continues to support Ukrainian children in Poland and publishers in Ukraine. The Foundation invites you to visit the website; you can support the Foundation's activities HERE.

May 23rd, 2022

10,070 UK publisher donated books offer refuge for Ukrainian children

10,070 publisher donated children’s books are now on their way from Book Aid International’s South London warehouse bound for Polish literacy organization The Universal Reading Foundation in Warsaw. These books will help the foundation continue to offer much-needed support to 50,000 Ukrainian children who have fled the conflict.

Over six million Ukrainians have sought shelter in neighboring countries since the war began – and among them are 1.8 million children. They need support both to continue to learn and to process the trauma of escaping war.

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May 9th, 2022

The Universal Reading Foundation has announced grants for Ukrainian publishers under the honorary patronage of the First Lady, Agata Kornhauser-Duda

150 thousand dollars will be donated to Ukrainian publishers as aid grants.
The grant system was announced on May 3rd on the website of the Universal Reading Foundation:
Ukrainian publishers without Russian capital, active on the publishing market for at least five years and having
published at least fifty books, may apply. The partners of the grant competition are: KBF - the operator of the
program Krakow City of Literature UNESCO, the Polish Book Chamber and the Association of Ukrainian Publishers
and Booksellers. Honorary patronage was assumed by the First Lady of the Republic of Poland.

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