Mrs Olubumi Aboderin-Talabi is the Publisher of Clever Club books, author of Diary of a Toddler and six other children’s picture books. She spoke with JOKE FALAJU on the need for parents to bond with their children by reading to them bedtime stories and also the importance of having good quality children’s books that could withstand the test of time. For her, Nigerians are ready to read if books if given access to quality books
What inspired you go into writing of children’s books?
Before we welcomed a baby into our home, I did a lot of reading, I read Dr Spot Baby bible, its in its 65th edition, I also read what to expect, they talked about helping a child’s cognitive development even when the child is a baby. Even before the child turns one and can talk or walk, if you can read bedtime stories to a child it helps, so I took it up and never want to miss the bedtime story time for my children and it was good, but unfortunately, most of the available children’s books are from abroad but I felt there must be Nigerian story books. So I went out deliberately looking for Nigerian or African story books and we found a couple of one to two books like Sade Fadipe books, and a couple of nice children books. But if you happen to be reading stories every night you will eventually run out of them, so I started writing my own. My husband also encouraged me to write and start publishing, he also suggested me to start doing picture story-book time which is the YouTube channel where I read to children. That was how I started; it is basically a desire to have good quality children’s picture books that can be of the same quality as the books that are seen abroad and imported into the country.
When did you start the project?
I launched the book March 1, 2018 and the books were officially released. The response has been quite encouraging, I have been able to meet a wonderful group of people who have book clubs for children and they are all over Nigeria, Ilorin, Kaduna, Abuja, Lagos and so many others. I have been able to collaborate with these book clubs, they invite me, I do book readings, the kids get up to read aloud and we act out scenes from the book. We organised one at Tabitha Kids book club in Abuja. So I have got to meet a whole lot of Nigerians who are passionate about children’s literacy. One of the dreams I have for Nigeria is for the country to be 100 per cent literate by the year 2030. Some people are pessimistic on how possible it is to achieve that target, but for me it is what I would like to see. Another encouraging thing is finding out about public libraries that we have and I found out most times the libraries are full. People say most Nigerians don’t like to read, but I don’t agree with that because the Nigerians that I see in the Libraries, book clubs, they like to read, they want to read. I feel that what people need is access to books, more interesting books, then they will read.
What is the cost implication of producing attractive books for children?
For about a year or two before I started, I was looking for the right illustrator, because the whole point of children’s book is that it is a picture book while adult books are chapter books and the illustrations have to be attractive, bright, colourful and relevant. It has to be able to capture what the text is saying and explain it in a manner they can understand. So illustrators are skillful people, if you see one, you must hold on to them. It was tough at first. I met a lady in Lagos, who I asked to assist me in illustrating my books, then she said it’s a labour of love because her own books took her about eight months to produce. Then when it came out, she had to be giving them out because people were reluctant to pay what it costs to produce the book to that standard, because she produced it to the highest standard. Just like mine, the books can be sold anywhere in the world- good printing, reproduction among others, so she said to me that people don’t go into children’s books to make money but people do it for love.
So I found out that to cover the cost of producing the books, I had to sell it for N3000 and people are struggling to buy it at that price. So I said to myself, something that is helping the brain of your child, something that is sparkling their creativity and inspiring the imagination, helping your child to dream of what they want to become and helping your child productively does not spoil their teeth, or their eyes or spoil their brain and they are saying the price is too much. For me a book of N3000 is not too much for child, if you look at the amount spent on weave-on, hair extensions, shoes and bags among others. But if it sells at that price, we can use the money to print more, but if we cannot get a market for it, the book venture can’t continue. It is as good as running a charity and that explains why people cannot produce books of good quality. Because one of the reasons for doing these things is to have a good quality Nigerian children’s books that are from Nigeria, that can seat on the shelves of any bookstores abroad. For adult books it may be easy to produce, but for children’s book everything has to be on point, bright pictures and others, but all that does not come cheap. But hopefully in my lifetime, people will understand the value to having good books for the children, and that is what myself and other authors are trying to do, to get the best picture quality books for children.
How can the government assist publishers in this regard?
I am really glad that this administration is trying to improve the ease of doing business in Nigeria, and, very recently, there were some reforms that were taken that make it actually easy for people to do business in Nigeria. It is not an easy job running a country as big as this, we can only hope for the best and continue to vote for the right people who are not secluded from what is going on, and are in touch with people and their challenges. So far, I like the way they have eased the way of doing business.
How do we promote reading culture in Nigeria?
We hope to change the reading culture in Nigeria. People are coming up with book clubs, there are so many of them in Lagos. Abuja, Kaduna, Ilorin. There are many people who are interested in changing the reading culture in Nigeria and we recognize that it is a grassroots thing, and it is starting with the children. People are just doing it out of their own initiative, because they can see into the future that we cannot continue the like this. Even children’s stores are trying to make reading exciting by having reading corners, by having book reading events among others, making Saturday mornings book reading mornings where parents bring their kids to sit down and read books in the company of other children. People are beginning to have that desire to encourage children to read.
Are you also bringing teachers on board?
We recently had a program in Ogun State and I met with teachers who are enthusiastic, energetic and very interested in what their students were learning and I saw intelligent students who were interested in reading. We can only hope and pray that the curriculum continues to improve and teachers’ training is done constantly and we encourage philanthropists to put more money into teachers’ training.
What is your advice to parents?
Parents should please read to their children, children love the time they spend with them. In my article on 10 Reasons Why Bedtime Stories Rock, it is because it is great for the children’s vocabulary and bonding time. It shows the children you have time for them, it shows that they are your priority, it gives you an opportunity to know what happened to them during the day, it is a time you can get quiet, forget the phone, social media and ask your children about their day; that is how you find out about your children. The biggest advantage of bedtime stories is that you are reading to the child and then conversation starts from there. For some fathers who are so busy and feel a bit distant from their children because they don’t know what to talk about, they can start bedtime stories and children love it when fathers spend time with them. Also it helps gauge children’s reading ability, and then you may be able to spot problems and know if there is need pay more attention to the child. You can start reading bedtime stories to your children from age 0-12 depending on the development of the child. You will know when to stop.
The Diary of a Toddler fits into the everyday Nigerian children’s activities because most children can relate to the character because she looks like them, she eat moin-moin and pap, she goes to school, she has her mummy and her daddy and she has a funny way of doing her hair