Who Will Write for my Kids?

3 days ago, a friend of mine put up the picture of a novella I love so much, ‘Time Changes Yesterday’, as his Blackberry profile pic. It brought loads of memories rushing back to me.

When I was younger, I was a voracious reader (still am). From the moment I could read ‘Eze goes toSchool‘ and ‘Mr. Salami is a farmer, he lives in Sapele‘, I pretty much consumed any thing in my path – okay, my aunts made sure the Mills & Boons (romantic books) were far away from me, but not all escaped :P. You know kids are good with research, LOL.

It all just got me thinking about how there were loads of writers to feed kids’ thirst for story books. Locally (in Nigeria), there was Buchi Emechita’s Second Class Citizen, Second Chance, Elechi Amadi’s The Concubine, and Ralia the Sugar Girl , Without a Silver Spoon… you name them, there were loads.

And ofcourse foreign books by Enid Blyton, Famous Five, Malory Towers, Ladybird Books etc. All these books helped my generation (which is still young but not the youngest), cultivate a reading culture that is priceless today.

However, I fear that which we once had is getting lost. How many Nigerian authors cater to kids’ reading needs. Perhaps the real question is, how many kids really want to read? I buy storybooks for my little cousins on their birthdays because that was the best gift you could give me when I was their age (except a bicycle of course). But I see them read the books because “aunty Tomi bought it for them” and they know it is good to read and they should enjoy it. But frankly, what they really want to do is watch Spy Kids, Ben 10, Bratz and Cheetah Girls. And it is not their fault, those programmes will be the topic of discussion in class tomorrow, and heaven help you if you are left behind. It means you dont have DSTV or a power generator in your house. In children’s dictionary, that = poverty.

Is the digital age to blame for the death of reading culture among kids, can the situation be salvaged, what can be done about kids’ literature? When are those talents that I very much know exist going to sit up and bring back the old time?

I just want to know, WHO WILL WRITE FOR MY KIDS?


8 thoughts on “Who Will Write for my Kids?

  1. Kunle Jinadu says:

    Tomi, Interestingly I have younger brother …not even a teen yet who’s a voracious reader and knows everything from sports to politics to … the usual ‘Obi goes to school’

    How come? I think I know the answer …. the absence of options …. Less TV time … more time for productive stuff … for the young and old

    • tomioladepo says:

      That is great!I take it you are suggesting less tv time for kids. How do you think that can be controlled, when the internet is there now as an alternative?

      • Kunle Jinadu says:

        Well, ‘TV time’ here includes internet time, toy time, e.t.c … If a child learns early to read, (S)he thinks its abnormal when S(he) sees others spend so much time on less productive stuff. Basically, train up a child in the way ….

        If you read a lot, your child or sibling will copy!

  2. Olalekan Olatunji says:

    I cant really get my brother and cousins to sit and read interestings books from the likes of femi osofisan but they can tell me all about BEN 10 and so on. Sometimes i do wish television was never invented. Nice one tomi

  3. I will write for your kids! …But, more seriously, I have same concerns. Parents and ‘big sisters and brothers’ as well as teachers have a big role to play here. Leading by example (i.e. reading voraciously and sharing your excitement with reading and learning from books) is the very first step. Many of the big sisters and brothers prefer to watch music videos and talk movies, bla bla bla… We need to lead the younger generation by example.

    By the way, I hope to write a number of short stories and novels for kids in the near future (some are already in first draft). (You know it also requires some research and knowledge of child psychology, etc.) I remember looking forward to the next time we would continue reading ‘Ralia, the Sugar Girl’ in class when I was in Primary Six… Mehn!!! That story was full of suspense… remember when she got lost? We all saw her as our own sister!

    • Tomexy says:

      LOL.. gbenga.. thanks for accepting to write for my kids 🙂 And you may be right .. culture is something that is passed down and if older ones don’t imbibe a healthy reading culture, it is difficult to have younger ones that would reading a hobby. Thumbs up and thanks for your comment.

  4. gus says:

    I found my way back to your blog from the comment you left on my site – thanks for your appreciation of the title ^_^

    This is a good question. I do think there are still plenty of great children’s writers out there in the States and UK — but the question of who will write stories which speak to young Nigerians is a good question. I wonder the same thing about Cameroonians — my boyfriend is in Peace Corps there right now, and he notes there are barely any books in French (the main language in his region) in his school’s library.

    As a media educator I don’t know what to say about the issue’s relationship to technology. Yes, kids do spend a lot more time looking at digital content. But at the same time, sometimes that involves reading and writing — there are usually fan forums for properties like Ben 10 and the Cheetah Girls, where kids sometimes even write their own stories. There are books which go with those series, too!

    The problem there, I think, is less the medium and more the commercial nature of those texts, which are usually low-quality and really just written to make more money for the franchise. They also limit the imagination to the world of that particular series, rather than presenting a range of other possibilities as one might find in a whole library.

    Anyway. We’ve been talking about these kinds of issues on my YouTube show — have you found your way there yet? It’s at http://youtube.com/themediashow. I’d love to keep talking with you more 🙂

    • Tomexy says:

      Oh thank you for your generous comment on this topic Gus … I am definitely going to check out your show on YouTube. And i completely agree with you that US and UK still has a number of children writers, while Nigeria and other African countries seem to be lagging.

      One reason I can gather for this off the top of my head is that publishers do not feel children stories would be lucrative enough, because, knowing local people, they would rather go for foreign stories. Back then when I was in kindergaten, it was ‘classy’ to come to school with stories about Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield (Sweet Valley Twins), Archie Comics – and the likes. No one is willing to invest in local and indigenous stories.

      Globally, I think children’s reading culture is headed for the doldrums. This is because everything is getting digitized. I am in the UK, and to me, it seems only the old people read books – except you are a college student and need to lift a few quotes for an essay.

      I understand what you mean when you say the digital content still involves reading and writing, but you may agree with me that gradually a phase is passing by – the phase when kids flipped pages and were excited about it.

      I dont know if this is good or bad – we’ll see.

      Thanks Gus.. please do keep in touch 🙂 cheers

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