Why I Write Children’s Books

Coumba Toure: Why I Write Children’s Books

Please  join me in celebrating the publication of my first book in English,  Bama’s Twins, with paintings and illustrations by Sidy Seck and translation by Yeshika Weerasekera. Previously, the book was Les Jumelles de Bama in French and Bama ka Filaniw in Bamankan.

Since my childhood, I have always loved writing and creating books of poetry. It became my salvation during my adolescent years – my refuge.

I began writing for children when I worked for the Institute of Popular Education. It was my contribution towards the larger effort of transforming the educational system in West Africa.  Our goal was to develop a system that would allow children of all ages to learn and think creatively;  and to affect positive change in the community. We wanted them to become changemakers. We needed childrens’ materials and books written in our language, that conveyed our positive values. The need still exists.

I write so that African children can have books, films, toys, games that they can identify with. I am recreating and bringing back stories with images and names that allow them to take pride in their black, African, heritage; and to take pride in their
parents and ancestors; and bear the highest respect for women. And most importantly, to take social action.I write so that children in China, in Europe, or in the Americas may grow up  enamored by African faces, names, stories, and traditions.Knowing oneself is the first step towards self-respect, and knowing others is the first step towards universal love and empathy.As a child I learned French and English. I read Snow White and Little Red Riding Hood.  I was mesmerized by Western culture, values and way s of thinking from a very young age. I learned to admire, love, and respect that which I was not. Too often we are taught to look down at who we are, and repeat what  is  already there.I believe it is the role of African artists to ensure that Africa is understood, loved and respected. Writing children’s books is my small contribution towards the arduous task of transforming perceptions and stereotypes.At first, I wrote for schools, told stories and created texts which were photocopied and distributed to students. Not long after, I published my first book. When my editor Fatou Ndiaye Sow, an unsung hero and inspiring soul, took me to an event at NYU, Yari Yari Pamberi: Black Women Writers Dissecting Globalization, then passed away right then and there – I understood that I had no choice but to carry the torch and write children’s books in honor of her legacy.Today, I follow in her footsteps.

 

My next book, The Twins of Diyakunda, is already published in French and Wolof. An English version is currently underway with illustrations by Inse Armah. It will be pretty incredible!

Coumba Toure

 

 
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