It started as a book drive. In 2007, Deborah Ahenkorah was a student at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania — a far cry from her native Ghana. She loved to read as a child — but was struck that every book she read while growing up in the capital city of Accra, took place in a foreign country.
“I rarely read about Ghanaians or Africans,” she recalled in her speech to the judges as a 2011 Echoing Green Fellowship Finalist.
Ahenkorah was passionate about solving the problem of African illiteracy, so she started an organization to collect and ship books to children in Africa.
“One day I came across a children’s book with illustrations of a young black girl,” Ahenkorah said as she described one of her college book drives to Echoing Green.
“I realized that of the thousands of books we had collected, that was the first one with images that looked anything like the African children we were supporting,” she continued.
“Suddenly book drives were not enough. Africans need to produce African children’s books for their youth. I started a literary award, the Golden Baobab Prize, to make this happen.”
Now in its third year, the Golden Baobab Prize is an annual literary award that discovers, celebrates and nurtures promising African writers of children’s literature.
The prize, which invites African citizens to submit unpublished short stories about Africa, is divided into three categories: best story written for ages 8-11, best story written for ages 12-15 and the Rising Writer Prize, awarded to a promising young author under the age of 18. Each winner receives a cash prize and is connected with publishers all over the world.
The first year alone, there were 76 entries from 9 countries. Last year that number more than doubled to 160 entries from 12 countries. This year’s deadline is midnight GMT on June 21st.
Ahenkorah is clear about her mission: “The Golden Baobab Prize will ensure that great African classics like Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart are not released once every 40 years, but 40 books every year.”
As she says on her website, “Our dream in ten years is to see bookstores all over the world overflowing with beautifully-written and illustrated African books for children and young adults.”
Read more: africa, author, book drive, books, childrens books, chinua achebe, deborah ahenkorah, echoing green, ghana, literary award, short story, the golden baobab prize, things fall apart, trailblazers for good, writer
Graphic courtesy of the Golden Baobab Prize
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