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Development charity encourages kids to read African stories

AFRICAN TALES: Send a Cow is encouraging children to read books about Africa

A BRITISH charity is running a campaign to encourage more school children to read African inspired literature in an effort to breakdown stereotypes of the continent, widen horizons and raise funds for some of Africa’s poorest communities.

Read to Feed is a month-long sponsored reading scheme organised by international development charity, Send a Cow.

Taking place throughout March, the campaign coincides with World Book Day, World Poetry Day and International Women’s Day and it’s attracted the support of several African authors who agree that many of Africa’s positive stories remain out of sight and reach for young people in the UK.

One of the authors supporting the campaign is Nigerian-born, Ifeoma Onyefulu, whose books provide a more holistic picture of African life.

Speaking of what first motivated her to write, Onyefulu said: "When reading to my son, the only books the library had on Africa were about safaris and giraffes….I wanted him to explore a more realistic picture of life there and so I started writing. Of course we have poverty and political problems in Africa but we also have weddings, births, parties, christenings, people laughing… I wanted to balance the pictures we see on TV of war and famine."

By taking part in the Read to Feed initiative, schools gain access to a wide range of resources including African-inspired reading lists for children of primary and secondary school age.

One of the charity’s top picks is One Plastic Bag by American author Miranda Paul. Set in Gambia, One Plastic Bag inspirational picture book tells the story of how five women creatively dealt with their village’s plastic waste problem. Far from the poverty-stricken, dependent stereotype of Africa, the women work together to pursue a recycle plastic purse project which brings them economic prosperity.

CHARITY CAMPAIGN: Children reading stories from Africa

Author Paul stresses that there is an absence of positive stories of Africa in what she describes as a much larger "book famine" made up of "a lack of books or a lack of books that accurately reflect the diversity in our world".

Lucy Carr, Send a Cow’s development executive who is leading the Read to Feed campaign said: "There are so many interesting, inspirational and moving stories from and about countries in Africa but they are difficult to access, especially for young people in the UK. Africa is a rich, complex and diverse continent and it's important that school children in the UK are given the opportunity to engage with what it has to offer."

According to the most recent 2011 census, there are more than 1.1 million people with African heritage in the UK. Whilst the charity argues that increased access and awareness of African inspired literature can widen horizons for all of the UK's school children, Mali-born author, Baba Wagué Diakité, who is also supporting the Read to Feed campaign, sees special merit for the African diaspora.

He said: "As a writer and storyteller based on African traditions, I would like to see younger generations of Africans and African diaspora exposed to and learn about their history and traditions through the eyes of Africans not solely from Western history books."

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