BOOK DASH ON CREATING AND SPREADING AFRICAN STORYBOOKS

Book Dash is a non-profit organisation creating African storybooks for African children.

“We choose every word carefully,” says co-founder and Board Chairman Arthur Attwell. “We believe in this deeply. Many children are invisible to the book industry. Borrowing from libraries is necessary, but not sufficient. A hundred books is a nice round number and it’s achievable.

“By the age of five, a child’s early development is over. The degree to which society neglects those early years is catastrophic and an abundance of books can have a big impact.”

At the first Book Dash day in May 2014, two teams made two books at Attwell’s Cape Town office.  A few months later, the founders decided to make things official and formed the non-profit organisation. All content is created by once-off volunteers, though some creatives have participated at more than one event. Over nine Book Dash events, they’ve had approximately 400 different creative volunteers.

READ MORE: A chat with bookseller Kays Mguni of Xarra Books

“The supporters at the heart of what we do are the people who create the books: these are professional writers, illustrators, designers, editors and logistics people who pour energy into our Book Dash days,” he says. “They’re selected from a large number of applications for their talent and experience, and the diversity they can bring to book creation.”

The organisation’s open source licence means that anyone can use or adapt its content without permission or notification. Thanks to a grant from the Solon Foundation, one of several generous partners that saw the potential in this initiative and helped make it a reality, the books have been translated into many South African languages.

There have also been translations by publishers seeking appropriate content for children around the world. “We work hard to keep things simple and do one thing well,” he says. “And by keeping the team small, we make decisions faster and almost never have to chase funding just to make payroll. This lets us stay creative and happy. The key to this is saying “no” to opportunities that would distract us from our mission.” Visit: bookdash.org

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