The bilingual Haitian Creole-English storybooks feature Haitian girls of color and provide insight into the rich culture of Haiti
In a world of books where many children still do not see themselves reflected in the pages, NABU Publishing sets out to change that. On Oct. 11, International Day of the Girl, nonprofit NABU launched two original titles Princess Maniya and Lila is Playing Ball written by Haitian authors Saonha Baptiste and Christina Doret, and illustrated by Haitian artist Audeva Joseph. The bilingual Haitian Creole-English storybooks feature Haitian girls of color and provide insight into the rich culture of Haiti.
“Our books, Prensès Maniya, and Lila Ap Jwe Boul are about powerful young girls—girls who are in control of their own destinies. 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,” said Taniya Benedict, Co-Creator of NABU, Director of Global Operations and Programs. “We want them to challenge the norm, and persevere—to be confident enough to turn every NO into a YES.”
NABU, the organization behind NABU Publishing, is a global literacy nonprofit disrupting the cycle of poverty by leveraging technology to publish children’s books for free on digital platforms in mother tongue languages. Through their low bandwidth application nabu.org which is available to download on Android, they have reached over 30,000 readers and their families in their programs in Rwanda and Haiti.
It was while working in these communities that co-creators of NABU Tanyella Evans and Taniya Benedict found that stories for children in their mother tongue were almost non-existent. This led them to work with their Haitian Director Francoise Thybulle to develop writer workshops, providing training for local authors and illustrators to create original stories, using technology to level the stories to the local curriculum. They discovered a rich trove of artistic talent; in their first writer workshops hosted in Port au Prince, Haiti, in March and June of 2017, 50 authors participated and created over 260 levelled children’s stories in Haitian Creole.
Francoise Thybulle, Director of NABU Haiti and former Director of the Haitian National Library said, “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.”
NABU Publishing brings an edited collection from Haitian creators to a US audience for the first time. Co-creator of NABU Taniya Benedict hopes that the collection will help to redress the inequality in the US publishing industry where only 11% of children’s books in the past 25 years have featured any kind of multicultural content, even though over 50% of children in the US identify as non-white. “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,” said Taniya Benedict, a Director and co-creator of NABU.
NABU Publishing plans to release two new storybooks every month in the United States from their network of authors in Haiti and Africa. All of the proceeds from the sale of the books will go to fund NABU’s literacy programs, and enable them to commission more work from local authors and illustrators.