UN SDG Book Club Books – Africa

By Olatoun Gabi-Williams

Children need adequate knowledge to realise their right to participate in their own development and in the world around them in ways that are age appropriate, uplifting and fun. The 5 books I’m introducing today move progressively up the 6 – 12 years + age range. We engage first with the biological growth of children, then with the child & public health, then gender equity and finally, my choice for older kids – a collection of vignettes highlighting the social, emotional and economic well-being of people living in a rural village of South-East Nigeria.

These are not school textbooks, but rather stories that offer light and colourful lessons that channel one or more of the multiple concerns of the relevant Sustainable Development Goals. Each book can be found on the UN SDG Book Club Africa reading lists. The African SDG Book Club seeks to introduce the 17 SDGs to children so that they can access information that is useful for understanding more about their own lives and about the planet they inhabit. We hope our young ones will get involved in solving the planet’s problems. Start at home and then venture out into your neighbourhoods under the loving eyes of grown-ups. There is so much to do.  2030 is the deadline. Ready, Steady, Action!

السن اللبني (The milk tooth)
Written by Newar Ahlam
Illustrated by Adat Barrett Corinne
Published by Yanbow Al-Kitab
Language  Arabic

Yassin discovers that his milk teeth are falling out. Through a conversation with his tooth, he learns that milk teeth will eventually be replaced with stronger and better ones. He also learns how to prevent tooth decay by keeping his mouth free of germs.

Gịnị mere I ji akwọ aka gị? (Why Do You Wash Your Hands?)

Written by Olubunmi Aboderin Talabi
Illustrated by Cerebral and Dexter Media Limited
Published by Clever Clogs Limited, Nigeria
Language Igbo [Nigeria]

This lovely picture book presents a basic practice of hygiene – thorough hand-washing.  Our youngest children will learn how hand-washing helps prevent the spread of diseases. The outcome of reading this book ought to be squads of adorable hand-washing activists.

Ma place est à l’école (My place is at school)

Written by Véronique Abt
Illustrated by Véronique Abt
Published by Yomad éditions
Language French [Morocco]

With a version available also in Arabic, this book addresses child education particularly girl-child education in a culture where the education of girls is not a priority, because they must by tradition, devote themselves to housework.  Aïcha, who lives in a village in southern Morocco, is no exception, and every day she watches longingly as a group of children hurry to school. How she would love to go to school!  Her fortune changes when she gets her father out of a tight spot at the market. From that moment, her dad becomes aware of the usefulness of knowing how to read and write, and he understands that there are sacrifices that must be made in order to secure a good education for your children.  Friendship is also celebrated in this page-turner of a book, and with the help of her friend, Fatiha, Aïcha finally goes to school.

Kijiiji cha kisiwani Mwandishi (An Island Village)

Written by Hamisi Babusa Mchapishaji
Published by Storymoja Publishers, Kenya
Language Kiswahili [Kenya]

This unique book uses a folklore style to show how children are affected by diseases like kwashiorkor and how to cure and protect them. The author gave ogres the names of diseases which affected the children thereby making the story very interesting, informative and educative on how children can be affected by diseases and how to protect them. In this book, the village of Kisiwani was attacked by ogres who were eating children. Binti Kitabu went to the village and educated them on how to protect the children and the village from the ogres.

Village Boy

Written by Anietie Usen
Illustrated by Mike Asukwo
Published by Origami (imprint of Parresia Publishers), Nigeria
Language English [Nigeria]

This vivid coming-of-age book for children 12 years + revisits the life of the author, an orphan, who grew up in a typical Nigerian village community in the 1960s and 1970s. Humorous and loving recollections are a nostalgic gift to readers of the author’s generation who also started their journeys of life in African settings new to modernity. Curious and colourful headings introduce curious and colourful vignettes about community life that include, for example, the season for flying termites. They are a gift to children raised in 21st century urban settings defined by western values, nuclear families, materialism, constantly innovating western technology and the fast–paced life. Selected for our SDG 1 – No Poverty – reading list in English, excellent, humorous illustrations of rustic life in South-East Nigeria adorn stories that beg these questions: What is wealth? What is poverty?

Meet Olatoun Gabi-Williams

Olatoun Gabi-Williams is a Nigeria-based journalist, publicist, child welfare advocate, elder care and dementia advocate, public speaker, administrator, non-profit founder. Read more about her here and about Borders Literature here. In 2015, she founded the UN SDG Book Club Africa, established as a partnership between United Nations Namibia and 6 pan-African book industry institutions. Read more about it here. To get away and really rest, she would love to visit a luxurious resort in one of Africa’s island nations and recline in a gazebo enjoying that lovely, salty ocean breeze.