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Aboderin Talabi: Publishing culturally intelligent books for kids

By Prisca Sam-Duru

Olubunmi Aboderin Talabi is an author and the founding publisher of Clever Clogs Books. In this exclusive interview, she speaks about her love for writing for children.

•Olubunmi Aboderin-Talabi

Kindly give a background of your enterprise, Clever Clogs

Clever Clogs is a niche, Start-up Company focused on the production of Nigerian-themed children’s picture books for young readers under the age of nine. So far, I have published Tobi Visits the Conservatory; Kob the Antelope and Diary of a Toddler.

What inspired you into writing and publishing children’s books?

I have always been a writer for as long as I can remember. However, I made the decision to start writing children’s books when I realised that we simply don’t have enough readily-available picture books specifically for Nigerian children. Many of the picture books in our environment are from or based on a different culture. Reading is good for the cognitive development of children but continually reading books featuring other cultures may unintentionally cause them to feel as if those cultures are of more value than ours.

You’ve just launched your book series, how has it been for you?

I would say it has been great. It is amazing that a lot of schools, parents and even the kids appreciate what we are trying to achieve with our books which is enabling children identify with the environment they live in.

What challenges do you face writing and publishing children’s books in Nigeria?

One of the challenges was finding the perfect illustrator to help portray exactly what we wanted. Also, finding a sheet-fed printer who pays attention to detail so that the final outcome is flawless was also a challenge. However, we are happy with the quality of the final versions of the books.

What makes your books unique?

They feature day-to-day life in modern day Lagos from the perspective of children under 9.The passion, the detail, the purpose behind them, make them unique. The books are woven with several learning undertones to help readers gain all-round knowledge that may not be taught in the classroom. For example, in the Diary of a Toddler, the book introduces valuable life concepts to the child, such as the importance of getting enough rest, the need for good personal hygiene, the role of prayer, when to brush your teeth and have your bath, as well as the deliciousness of home-cooked Nigerian food. It shows that there is a time for everything and it helps them to tell time. Reading such a book will encourage a non-sedentary lifestyle, as it depicts an active protagonist.

What are the reasons for resonating Nigerian culture, values and milieus within the themes of your books?

There are simply not enough picture books readily available to Nigerian children. In a country of over 170 million people, when you visit a bookstore, you will find out that there are not many early childhood books which depict people who look like us, or live in our environment or appreciate the things we appreciate. If the alphabet charts were true to form we use A is for amala instead of ‘A’ is for apple. Both are true but one is more culturally intelligent. I am very interested in our children understanding our values and ideals as Nigerians from the moment they can start to read. It would easily become a part of them that way.

Aside publishing, what other steps have you taken to help improve children’s reading culture in Nigeria?

I do book readings at schools, book clubs, and other organisations. I also have a You Tube channel called Picture Book Story time. The goal of Picture Book Story time is to encourage those who want to learn how to read to follow the words as I read them out loud.

What are your long-term plans for Clever Clogs?

To see Clever Clogs Books in every household in Nigeria.

 


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