In late October, Karen Joy Fowler and I were in Kearney, Nebraska where Karen spoke at our first Writers for WaterBridge Outreach: Books + Water fundraising event, in conjunction with the Kearney Library Author Speakers Series. Not only were we greeted with warmth by the Library Foundation members and the community, we were surprised to see our faces up on a flashing billboard as we drove into town, which announced the event that evening. At the library Karen delighted the audience with her wit and intelligence as she spoke about her books and her life as a writer.
It was a lovely event, and the first of what we hope will be many more fundraising events featuring our Writers for WBO. Due to the generosity of the writers and the Kearney Area Community Foundation, we have begun an important new Writers for WBO Book Project, publishing books in the native language of communities where there is limited teaching and learning resources, and where having any access to books is especially difficult.
Our first book project was producing 8000 booklets in Kiswahili, the lingua franca of East Africa, working in close collaboration with Melissa Queyquep of The Foundation for Tomorrow (TFFT) in Arusha, Tanzania. It has proven to be a wonderful collaboration. The teachers donated their time to write the texts that tell stories drawn from day-to-day life in Tanzania, and a local illustrator produced the drawings. The books were distributed just as the government declared teaching, reading, and writing only in Kiswahili in grades 1 thru 3 to improve literacy. I can’t think of a better fit then for writers to put books in the hands of young readers, especially where there are no libraries in primary schools, and in most government secondary schools. A book becomes all the more precious when it’s shared between 10 or more students, or if the teacher has only one copy of a textbook and the children are taught by a method called, "chalk and talk,” where teachers write the notes on the board for the students to copy.
It's our hope to continue publishing books in the native language of other communities we have worked with: Creole in Haiti and Tamil in Southeast India. The need is great for this ongoing book project led by the Writers for WBO and for all those who believe in the power of a book.
As writers who have been long inspired by words on the page, this project allows us to give back the gifts we've been given. Please join us in putting a book in every child’s hands.
Published December 2015
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Our Inaugural Writers for WaterBridge Outreach: Books + Water Event