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IT IS ON US to Read Nigerian Picture Story Books to Our Children
Opinion piece by Ejemai Olayemi Ph.D., FCCA, FCA , FCTI
It is our responsibility and duty to produce local and indigenous children picture storybooks that depict our culture and tradition, that use the likeness of our children, our phenotype, and our surroundings. When children see their likeness in books and on the television, it gives a sense of acceptance and the confidence of being enough.
It always gladdens my heart when children interrupt me when I am reading any of my books and they exclaim “my name is Dara, my brother is IK, my friend is Tisefunmi or Suraj”; they can relate to the story, it is easier for them to read and understand because it is their reality.
While foreign books, stories, and heroes are not bad, reading them alone is insufficient for our children, how do they learn that they are enough when they don’t read books that reflect them.
There is so much to do as it relates to picture storybooks for children 0 to 7 ages in Nigeria, every topic that relates to children must be depicted in picture storybooks for this group of readers. Corporate bodies must step forward to assist authors of picture storybooks, literacy award organizers must create a category for authors of picture storybooks so as to promote this art, the government must provide indigenous picture storybooks for public libraries and schools, well-meaning individuals should consciously support younger readers and initiatives for this age of readers, the media must advocate for support for this class of readers, schools should insist on more indigenous picture storybooks now more than ever since we have contemporarily well-done picture storybooks, book vendors should stock indigenous picture storybooks and tell their customers about the importance of this books, literacy competition organizers should allocate a slot for authors and illustrators of picture storybooks that carry Nigeria undertone.
How can you expect a 10-year-old to magically become a reader when he/she has not been reading since he was 1 year or 2 years old? it is not magic, it must be taught to be inherent in the child to read, that is how to groom readers. It is not shocking that Nigerian authors are not selling thousands or hundreds of thousands of books, they cannot because we have not taught children to read so who will buy the books you are writing. Not foreigners who have their own books to digest, we must create our own reading generation.
People call me to ask, is it true that you have sold over 12,000 copies of your books in 2 years, the answer is yes. The kids are hungry for the stories that affect them for the pictures that show their reality. So, we must keep this up, imagine my current readers in 15 -20 years’ time; they will be parents and they will gladly buy my books for their own children because it is now inherent in them.
Another issue we must discuss is getting these books to less privileged children and children in public schools. The government can do so much here if they can provide these quality picture storybooks to children from disadvantaged backgrounds, it will go a long way in restating that they are loved and they matter to society.