International Day of the Girl: NABU Launches Haitian Creole / English Storybooks

In News by Porter Anderson

Having conducted workshops in Haiti for authors, the literacy charity Nabu is releasing the two of a planned series of bilingual books for girls of color.

Co-founders of the literacy charity Nabu are Taniya Benedict, left, and Tanyella Evans, center, here seen with Isabel Sheinman. Image: Nabu

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

‘To Challenge the Norm, and Persevere’
The nonprofit literacy charity called Nabu was founded as “Liberty for All” in 2013, rebranded to Nabu in 2018, and works from Kigali in Rwanda, Port-au-Prince in Haiti, and New York City.

Today (October 11)—designated by UNICEF in 2012 as the “International Day of the Girl Child”—Nabu’s new books program is releasing in the US, UK, and Australia its first two books in what is designed to become a storybook collection that will add two new books monthly.

  • The most significant elements of these releases are:
  • They feature female protagonists, and are targeted to girls of color
  • They’re created by authors and illustrators in the African and Haitian markets
  • They are bilingual books, offering their texts in both English and the French-based Haitian Creole
  • All proceeds are to go to commissions for authors and illustrators for more storybooks

In an echo of the concern Publishing Perspectives has reported on from the African markets for indigenous-language literature, the attention to creating reading material for girls in the Haitian Creole, or kreyòl ayisyen, is especially interesting. The language reportedly is spoken by up to 12 million people in the world and is said to be the only language used by most Haitians.

In addition, the book Lila Plays Soccer (Lila Ap Jew Boul) by Christina Dorer and illustrator Audeav Joseph takes as its focus the interest among many girls in women’s football, as boosted by the past summer’s World Cup in France. Readers of our Show Dailies at Frankfurter Buchmesse next week will read an interview with Swedish publisher Marie Tomičić, whose Olika Forlag has an extended series of books for young readers on female football stars.

The newly released Princess Maniya (Prensès Maniya) and Lila Plays Soccer are written by authors Saonha Baptiste and Christina Doret, and illustrated by Haitian artist Audeva Joseph.. Translation is by Wynnie Lamour. With the organization’s Haitian director Franςoise Thybulle, Nabu held workshops in Port-au-Prince in 2017, leading to the development of Haitian Creole children’s stories.

Thybulle is quoted in a prepared statement for today’s release, saying, “Artistic expression and creativity is core to our identity as Haitians. I want the next generation of children in Haiti to feel proud of our culture and heritage, and through our work at Nabu we are providing children with access to these precious Haitian stories.”

Co-director Taniya Benedict is also quoted, saying, “We want every girl, especially girls of color who remain underrepresented in all segments of society, to feel as fearless as Princess Maniya and as courageous as Lila.

“We want them to challenge the norm, and persevere—to be confident enough to turn every no into a yes.”

For each copy of a Nabu story sold, the organization says on its gook covers, Nabu will give a digital copy to a child who needs one.

The organization says that more than 30,000 young readers and family members have downloaded the group’s Android app in Rwanda and Haiti.

In a statement of purpose, Nabu’s site tells visitors, “Our mission is to solve the imbalance in children’s book creation and distribution, so all children can read and rise to their full potential.

“Literacy is a prerequisite for eradicating poverty, yet globally there’s a severe shortage of local language books at the early grade levels. … Our solution is to make children’s books free, and to champion mother-tongue stories.

“Our vision is to build an inclusive, diverse, and community-centric global and local storytelling platform. When children can read in their local language first, they grow in confidence, and literacy levels shoot up. By offering training for writers and illustrators, we create original local-language books that support children in learning how to read.”

Backers of the program listed on its site include David Heller, the former Goldman Sachs executive. Heller is listed as the group’s patron. Other supporters listed are Bloomberg Philanthropies, Cheryl Mothes & Rick Hetzels, the Pratt Family Foundation, the Siegel Family Endowment, the Keflofsky Family Foundation, the Panta Rhea Foundation, the Ralph E. Ogden Foundation, and more.

More from Publishing Perspectives on children’s books is here, and more from us on issues of diversity is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.