Pin of the Week #6: A ‘library in a box’ – with appropriate books

We plan to bring you regular highlights from our Pinterest boards, which are kept active by a team of ‘virtual volunteers’ in the USA and Ghana. We have our partners Friends of Mmofra to thank for recruiting and managing student ‘pinners’ on our behalf!

Source: google.com via Mmofra on Pinterest

Pinned to: Where Books Live

Plan Canada began selling these portable book packages for Haitian schools following the disastrous 2010 earthquake.

We like the look of the sturdy wood design, but we were also pleased to see Plan thinking about what local readers want:

Given to schools, these boxes are packed with 35 books each, in French and Creole, to engage the insatiable minds of hundreds of children

Hopefully it came stocked with a good mix of books about Haitian life and by Haitian writers. Unfortunately there is no detail on its exact contents – if you know more, do leave a comment below.

Books are wonderful things, but ‘gifting’ them from far away isn’t as straightforward as it might seem. Which books will they be? Who decides what the recipients should be reading?

As we were writing this post, we noticed a relevant tweet from an education conference in Windhoek, Namibia:

Clark: "Don't let educational colonialism sneak in through the backdoor with bucket loads of hardware and content that is inappropriate."
@SmithInAfrica
David Smith

(‘Clark’ is the education and technology commentator Donald Clark.)

To us, ‘appropriate’ content means stories that are meaningful to young readers. Books with characters, environments and situations they can identify with.

We’re big believers in putting local literature into children’s hands. Stories from elsewhere are great, but nothing gets a new reader engaged and excited like seeing their life reflected on the page.

Here in Ghana, the global literacy charity Worldreader distributes Kindles and ebooks to some schools. We have supported (with a bit of constructive criticism!) its efforts to offer more local content – take a look at the catalogue and you’ll see a growing number of African originals.

You’ll also find our own ebook of Voice in the Forest, by Mmofra founder Efua Sutherland.

Positive stuff, but there is always room for improvement. If you’re looking for some African children’s literature yourself, our Pinterest walls are the place to go: we regularly pin new recommendations to our Young Adult and Kids reading lists.

Look out for another featured ‘Pin’ next week…

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