Last year (2010) the Uganda Community Libraries Association was given a generous grant by Pockets of Change in New York to enable us to buy packets of locally produced children's books for some of our member libraries. So we went shopping and were able to buy some pretty nice books, especially from Fountain Publishers and the Children's Writers and Illustrators Association in Uganda and from Heinemann's Junior African Writers Series, which is imported from Kenya. But these were books for older children; we could find hardly any that were appropriate for the very young.
So, inspired by the wonderful picture books that Kathy Knowles has produced for the Osu Children's Library Fund (www.osuchildrenslibraryfund.ca), we decided to produce our own. At our workshop in July 2010, our member librarians worked to classify photographs that I provided according to the themes covered in Uganda's curriculum for the first year of primary schools; they also wrote captions for the photos. Then, after some editing and with the help of a grant from Hawk Children's Fund at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, we persuaded Fountain Publishers to print four little books: Let's Eat!, Let's Go!, Let's Look!, and Let's Play!
Here's what we wrote on the back of each book:
"The Let's ... books are designed to help children in Africa to enjoy reading and to see its relevance for themselves. Every page features a photograph of an activity, scene, or object that is familiar to African children. With the picture there is a short text that includes a question. There is no right or wrong answer to the question: its purpose is to encourage conversation and to stimulate children to think about the pictures.
"Adults can read and talk about the books with young children, while older children will want to read them for themselves or with their younger siblings. Each book reflects a theme in Uganda's new thematic curriculum for Primary One so that pre-school children who talk about it will be preparing themselves for school work later on. For older children, the books will encourage thinking, will reinforce the vocabulary that they learn in school, and may be used to stimulate their own writing."
Each 24-page book will cost about 6,000 Uganda shillings - that is, less than $3.00. Our grant from Hawk Children's Fund enables us to buy nearly 200 complete sets so that we can give one to each of our member libraries and still have many left over to use for family literacy projects. We also hope that the books will inspire our library people to take their own photographs and put together their own books. If any blog readers would like to buy the books, they can be obtained from Fountain Publishers (www.fountainpublishers.co.ug) in Uganda and from the African Books Collective (www.africanbookscollective.com) in Europe and Commonwealth countries.
Thank you, Hawk Children's Fund and Fountain Publishers! And thank you, Cornelius Gulere, Sophia Klumpp, Enoch Magala, Joseph Nizigiyimana, and Charles Wolf for contributing photographs.