Vol­un­teers cre­ate new chil­dren's books in just 12 hours

Daily Dispatch - - Life - MADELEINE CHAPUT MadeleineC@dis­patch.co.za (https://bookash.org/events /book-dash-16/)

The global pan­demic has ham­pered many things, but read­ing def­i­nitely is not one of them

— and for South African not-for­profit book pub­lisher, Book Dash, pro­duc­ing high qual­ity read­ing ma­te­rial for chil­dren across the coun­try has not been put on hold ei­ther.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion will host an on­line Book Dash event on Saturday [Oc­to­ber 17] which will see 21 vol­un­teers from eight coun­tries join forces in cy­berspace. The vol­un­teers will work tire­lessly to cre­ate six brand new chil­dren s books in

’ just 12 hours.

Book Dash was founded in 2014 by a group of like-minded friends who hoped to flood the coun­try with new, high-qual­ity, af­ford­able African sto­ry­books.

Since then, the or­gan­i­sa­tion has cre­ated 140 orig­i­nal chil­dren s books which have been trans­lated into all of SA s of­fi­cial

’ lan­guages to build a li­brary of al­most 500 ti­tles.

The first Book Dash events were held in May and June in 2014 in Cape Town. Heart­ened by the qual­ity of the books and the en­thu­si­asm of the cre­ative vol­un­teers, co-founders Arthur At­twell, Michelle Matthews and Tar­ryn-Anne An­der­son es­tab­lished Book Dash as a reg­is­tered not-for-profit, vol­un­tary as­so­ci­a­tion with the aim of con­tin­u­ing to cre­ate, print and dis­trib­ute more books to chil­dren

and to prove that high-qual­ity books in many lan­guages can be af­ford­ably pro­duced and dis­trib­uted, ex­plained Book

Dash di­rec­tor, Dorette Louw.

She said books were gen­er­ally very ex­pen­sive and the ma­jor­ity of chil­dren in SA would not be in a po­si­tion to own books.

In an un­equal so­ci­ety like ours this means that books are an un­af­ford­able lux­ury for fam­i­lies liv­ing in poverty.”

Louw said ac­cord­ing to a study done by the South African Book De­vel­op­ment Coun­cil 58% of house­holds in SA don t

’ own any leisure books. She said this wors­ened the ex­ist­ing in­equal­i­ties be­cause chil­dren grow­ing up in homes with many books re­ceived the equiv­a­lent of three years more school­ing than chil­dren who grew up in book­less homes.

“”

While Stats SA puts the youth (ages 15- 34) lit­er­acy rate at 93,9%, the lat­est Progress in In­ter­na­tional Read­ing Lit­er­acy Study (PIRLS) re­vealed that 78% of Grade 4 learn­ers in SA can­not read for mean­ing in any lan­guage.

Louw said Book Dash aimed to ad­dress this lit­er­acy cri­sis in SA and flood the coun­try with books. She said Book Dash s

’ vi­sion is that ev­ery child should own one hun­dred books by the age of five ”.

Book Dash events take place up to three times a year, with their up­com­ing virtual gath­er­ing be­ing the 16th in­stal­ment and sec­ond one on­line.

Louw said due to the pan­demic, the events could not con­tinue in their usual for­mat and the team opted to have their first ex­per­i­men­tal virtual Book Dash in April. It was

“won­der­ful to still be able to cre­ate new books de­spite lock­down, said Louw. Peo­ple of­ten think that it s

’ enough to have books in a school li­brary, but un­der lock­down it be­came clear to ev­ery­one how im­por­tant it is that chil­dren also have books at home some­thing Book Dash has been ad­vo­cat­ing for since our in­cep­tion.”

This will be our sec­ond virtual Book Dash and we re so

’ ex­cited that our tal­ented Book Dash alumni, who live around the world, can par­tic­i­pate in this event and cre­ate new chil­dren s books. With­out the gen­er­ous gift of their time and skills, Book Dash would not ex­ist, and hun­dreds of thou­sands of chil­dren across SA would not have their own books to love and read.”

The events con­dense the usual lengthy process of cre­at­ing books into just one day and usu­ally sees 10 teams com­pris­ing one writer, an il­lus­tra­tor, a de­signer and an ed­i­tor pair up to make sto­ries come to life.

The events have be­come so pop­u­lar that we usu­ally re­ceive at least three times the num­ber of ap­pli­ca­tions that we can ac­com­mo­date on the day! We usu­ally have a mix of ex­pe­ri­enced cre­atives and tal­ented begin­ners, and this makes for a mag­i­cal col­lab­o­ra­tion,” Louw said.

They start the Saturday at 9am with only the out­line of a story, and they end the day 12 hours later hav­ing cre­ated a brand-new chil­dren s book.

The new books are pub­lished on our web­site un­der a Cre­ative Com­mons li­cense which means that any­one in the world can read, down­load, trans­late, adapt and even sell the books there are no re­stric­tions.

This year, only six teams could take part in each of the virtual Book Dash events, but the gath­er­ings al­beit on­line have a sim­i­lar for­mat. The Book Dash model reimag­ines the pub­lish­ing process and cuts down about 80% of the nor­mal pub­lish­ing costs,” Louw said.

She said this was done by re­ly­ing on the time, pas­sion and skill of vol­un­teers.

This means that over the years we have paid noth­ing, nada, zilch in writer s fees, il­lus­tra­tion

’ fees, de­sign fees and edit­ing fees, be­cause no-one is paid for their time at a Book Dash event ev­ery­one re­gards their con­tri­bu­tion as a gift to the world, Louw said.

This en­ables Book Dash to break down the bar­ri­ers to lit­er­acy by pub­lish­ing in­cred­i­bly af­ford­able books where the only cost is print­ing. Be­cause of this ex­treme re­duc­tion in pro­duc­tion costs, we can of­fer our books at only R10 a copy to our part­ners who fund large print runs.”

She said 2020 had been par­tic­u­larly ex­cit­ing as Book Dash had reached the im­pres­sive mile­stone of dis­tribut­ing its one mil­lionth book, de­spite the pan­demic.

We con­tin­ued print­ing and dis­tribut­ing books and have dis­trib­uted close to 350,000 books since the be­gin­ning of 2020.

Amy Slatem, an Aus­tralian based il­lus­tra­tor who will be tak­ing part in her sec­ond Book Dash event on Saturday de­scribed Book Dash as a wellor­gan­ised,

“ex­cit­ing, stress­ful, but in­spir­ing event.”

Due to the dif­fer­ent time zones, Slatem will be work­ing through the night to il­lus­trate a brand new chil­dren s book this

’ time round.

Ghana­ian de­signer, Ben­jamin Tet­teh said the feel­ing of com­plet­ing a sto­ry­book for Book Dash was price­less.

Book Dash makes it pos­si­ble “for cre­atives like me and oth­ers around the world to cre­ate African sto­ry­books that chil­dren can re­late to,” said Tet­teh who will also be col­lab­o­rat­ing with Book Dash for a sec­ond time on Saturday.

Also join­ing Book Dash for a sec­ond time, UK based South African writer Sam Beckbessin­ger said: Get­ting in­volved

“in Book Dash is one of the most mean­ing­ful things I ve

’ ever done with my life.” The book we made has a life “of its own; ev­ery now and then, I see pho­tos of kids all over the world hold­ing that book, lov­ing it, know­ing it is theirs. Noth­ing else I have ever “done has rip­pled through the world like that, in such a sim­ply good way.”

Tak­ing part in Book Dash for a third time, South African de­signer Natalie Pierre-Eu­gene said she loved the com­mu­nity spirit of her first Book Dash ex­pe­ri­ence in 2019.

I have al­ways had a love for “chil­dren s books but I wasn t

’ ’ ex­pect­ing to leave af­ter the 12 hours with such a full heart. What Book Dash has cre­ated is be­yond words and to be a part of it was ac­tu­ally quite sur­real, it s hard to not have a smile on your face the en­tire day.”

To live stream the event on Saturday or find out more about Book Dash visit www.book­dash.

Pic­ture: SUP­PLIED

FULL SPEED AHEAD: Ten teams of cre­ative vol­un­teers work to­gether to cre­ate brand new chil­dren's books in just 12 hours dur­ing a pre­vi­ous (pre-Covid) Book Dash event.

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