In an effort to tackle the lack of representation of protagonists of color in storytelling, NABU Publishing launched a collection of children’s books in the US that are produced by Haitian creators on Oct. 11, International Day of the Girl Child.
NABU is a global literacy organization that works to break the cycle of poverty by providing access to children’s books for free by publishing them on digital platforms in Haiti, Rwanda, and Democratic Republic of Congo.
The organization plans to release two new children’s books from Haitian creators for a US audience every month. The first two stories from their Haitian collection, Princess Maniya and Lila Plays Soccer, will include both Haitian Creole and English translations, connecting children around the world through storytelling.
“Every human being needs to share their culture and cultural practices in order to feel valued by other populations. Children from southern countries need contact from other countries in order to grow in the global community,” Saonha Lyrvole Jean Baptiste, author of Princess Maniya, told Global Citizen. “The distance is reduced with the internet and its technological outcomes.”
NABU Publishing works with local authors and illustrators to create the books, first providing them with workshops using technology that ensures the books are connected to local curricula.
The idea is that by providing free access to these books, children missing out on learning opportunities can gain access to curriculum-friendly resources.
The NABU app has been downloaded almost 30,000 times in Rwanda and Haiti, resulting in the tracking of more than 86,000 turned pages — equal to 3,500 hours of reading time.
While working in communities in Rwanda and Haiti, NABU co-creators Tanyella Evans and Taniya Benedict noticed a lack of children’s stories in the areas’ mother tongues, which is why they set to work on creating the local workshops.
A deeper dive into the subject reveals a similar issue in the US — only 13% of children’s books in the last 24 years have included multicultural content, according to NABU.
“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,” Benedict said in a press release.
For every print book sold, NABU gives a free digital copy to children in Haiti who are accessing the stories on their low-cost tablets and smartphones.
The books connect children from Haiti to children in the US, while preserving a language and providing an opportunity for children of color to see themselves represented in their pages, no matter where they are in the world.
“[By becoming an illustrator], I had a chance to draw the Haitian children that I had always seen in my imagination,” Audeva Joseph, illustrator of Princess Maniya and Lila Plays Soccer, told Global Citizen. “I am proud and happy to contribute to bringing children of the world closer to one another through beautiful, positive images and messages of love and sharing.”
Disclosure: Global Citizen's CEO is married to Tanyella Evans, NABU's co-creator.