By Sylvia Mawunyo Adzomani
Have you ever had the childhood opportunity of one-on-one interaction with the author of any book you have read? “Maybe” or “maybe not” would be the response.
Fostering collaboration with local authors, illustrators, and schools, and its benefits were the pivot of discussion in this session of Muna Kalati (MK Talk) with panellists, Mr. Christian Kingue Epanya, (author and illustrator), Mrs. Anyele Perbi of Perbi Cubs and Mr. Christian Elongué, the executive director of Muna Kalati.
The panellists outlined the significance of fostering a relationship with the local authors, illustrators, and schools that are end users of books targeted at children.
In the proposed collaboration, the panellists said children would get to know more about the authors, and their books, which would enable them to develop more interest in reading their books as well as create a new experience between authors and children. Children would tend to experience the author through personal connection, which would create a lasting impression in their minds.
“Books come alive when kids get the opportunity to meet authors with their book content,” they agreed.
They also highlighted how collaboration would serve as inspiration for authors to get fresh ideas through regular interactive sessions with children.
Concerning career choices, the panellists added regular interactive sessions with schools that would serve as an eye-opener for children to envision book writing and illustration as career choices.
Mr. Christian Kingue Epanya noted, “Illustrators are usually in the background while authors are in the limelight because their work is not given much prominence, although illustration is equally a career to envisage”. He laid bare his experience in illustration and the writing of books as a career that has given him the opportunity to travel around the world.
Mrs. Anyele Perbi touched on the need to bridge the gaps by creating accessibility to local books and their authors. “Reading is foundational and a strong indicator of academic success,” she stressed.
She explained that, as a promoter of children’s books, Perbi Cubs currently has less than 5% of their collection with local Ghanaian children books. Mrs. Perbi expressed her dissatisfaction about this percentage adding her network is enthusiastic about promoting more local books and is willing to work with all local authors and illustrators to boost promotion initiatives between authors and schools.
The Panellists applauded Muna Kalati for continually creating awareness and being the frontier of the discourse.
Mr. Epanya implored school authorities to develop an interest in local storybooks as a driving force to boost collaborations between authors and schools.
He asked school authorities to make local storybooks an available option to read and introduce to the children.
The panellists encouraged school authorities to develop more interest in book fairs, exhibitions, and workshops as a meeting point to hold discussions with authors and illustrators for effective collaboration to increase literacy as a common goal.
Mrs. Perbi suggested school authorities take ample advantage of opportunities by Social Work organisations that are willing to embark on book donation projects and the establishment of library services.
The panellists recommend authors produce electronic versions of their books as an opportunity to reach a wider audience, make them cheaper to afford, expand their market, and overcome the difficulty of accessing local books.
Call To Action
They raised a call for Non-Governmental Organisations to become more visible to enable schools to get on board for collaborations.
They call on key stakeholders as critical mass to ignite a fire of collaboration to inhibit African culture in children through publishing and illustrating local books.
They called on governments to build infrastructure, build libraries, and initiate more book fairs.
The panellists pleaded with the government to provide grants to support the efforts of schools to invite local authors and illustrators. Honour and emphasise the importance of reading and prioritise it as a cultural identity, as the development of a country depends on the knowledge of its citizens.
Governments need to reconsider how expensive book production has become and lend a helping hand to remedy many challenges authors and illustrators encounter, such as a lack of painting materials, paper, and boards, especially in rural areas where illustrators deem it necessary to volunteer their services in schools, which ends up overburdening their costs.
Local authorities and the media need to promote the work of authors and illustrators by inviting them to expand their market at book fairs and through media publicity.
School authorities need to prioritize inviting authors and illustrators at least once a term to engage and interact with children, and authors and illustrators are encouraged to honor such invitations to awaken the interest of children in reading local books.
They ended the session by advocating everybody to get on board to clean up the perception that, “if you want to hide something from a black man, put it into writing.”
Do you know how ChatGPT is influencing the creative industry? Read our previous talk sessions at Muna Kalati.