Illustrations by Karlien de Villiers
As an editor, one thing I know for sure about writing is that it takes time. So when I found myself writing a story for children at my first Book Dash event, I was taken completely out of my comfort zone.
Book Dash gathers writers, illustrators, book designers and editors in one room to produce print-ready children’s books in just 12 hours. Why? Because kids in South Africa desperately need books – good quality storybooks – and there’s no time to waste.
Literacy stats in South Africa are bleak – only 5% of parents in South Africa read to their children and 51% of households don’t own a single book!
My team’s book back then was about Graça Machel. From humble beginnings in Mozambique she went on to help her country gain independence and significantly raised its early childhood literacy levels in her first two years as Minister of Education and Culture. She was passionate about sharing her love of books and learning with her people and realised so many seemingly impossible dreams.
This story speaks to me on such a personal level – it’s the reason I volunteered to be part of Book Dash in the first place. South Africa’s own reading culture and literacy stats need to change; our children deserve to know the power of story and the pleasure of reading. It’s a worthy dream to have.
So there I found myself in a room full of talented and committed strangers – people all working towards the same goal of getting quality storybooks into children’s hands.
Here’s what I learnt 12 (very short) hours later:
1. Making kids books is a collaborative process
In kids books, the visual elements need to have a fluid conversation with the words. Neither can be created in isolation. Producing a kids book is all about teamwork.
2. A time limit is a good way to keep focused
There’s something about an almost impossible time limit for a task to motivate action. Write, illustrate and design a print-ready book in 12 hours – it sounds difficult, right? It was actually easy. It really was. There was no time for checking Facebook, email or smartphones or even engaging in small talk. The task at hand was our primary focus and there wasn’t a minute to spare.
3. Books connect us
I connected with some amazing people that day – this is the beauty of books. When we are in that intimate space with a book in our hands and we relate to the story being told and the voice that tells it, we get taken to a magical place, a place that can teach us something, that can inspire us. All of us in that room knew that space well and it’s what brought us together in the first place. We did what we did because children deserve to know this place too. We wanted to offer it to them, just like Graça did when she asked at the end of our story:
Here’s a book, my child, what will it inspire you to do?
This is what Book Dash is all about.
We all did something extraordinary there that day. We put aside our egos, our doubts and our own personal agendas and we gave everything else we had, to bring the joy of reading to our small people.
I’ve since participated in two other Book Dash Events and there are now a whopping 85 unique open source books available to hungry readers. It was worth it!
Read Graça’s Dream for free here.
Written by Melissa Fagan, freelance content writer and editor
I help traditional and digital publishers deliver engaging and informative content that resonates with their readers. Internationally qualified writer and editor with 13 years’ publishing experience.
Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you’re passionate about children’s literacy and you enjoyed reading this post, please share it with your networks. I’d also love to hear your thoughts, so leave a comment below.