Book festivals are a wonderful way to light a passion for reading and get children excited about books and Africa is no exception when it comes to fantastic events for kids! Today, Nigerian writer, publisher and regular World Kid Lit blog contributor Ayo Oyeko tells us about a festival he recently took part in, Akada Children’s Book Festival.
The sound of the word adventure creates sparks in the eyes of children and butterflies in their bellies. An adventure is something every child wishes to experience several times in a lifetime. The fun, thrills and surprises offer a well-rounded excitement for children bustling with never-sapping energy. To be a part of an adventure, children read adventurous books, visit amusement parks, and sometimes attend book festivals!
One such festival is the Akada Children’s Book Festival. This annual event is held in Lagos – the beating heart of Nigeria. This country is not only the most populated in Africa but one that is also blessed with a diversity of languages, cultures and breath-taking tourist sites. Founded in 2019 by Olubunmi Aboderin Talabi, her vision to create a wonderland of literary feasts for children is truly the first among equals and second to none. Akada Children’s Book Festival is the only children’s book festival in Nigeria, and possibly the biggest book festival in Africa.
The first year of the festival was similar to the symbolic birth of a child – promising and well attended with over a thousand visitors. But Covid struck in the second year, and the festival was held online. The surge of excitement did not wane in the eyes of children as they engaged the festival online again in its third year, with close to two thousand attendees. Then came 2022 with a breath of fresh air – the doors were flung wide open and children trooped to the Upbeat Centre to experience a festival like no other, themed Together Again.
Carefully organized to cater to all children with respect to their age ranges and physical abilities, the festival took place within a wide and well-secured perimeter. Several activities were lit up under coloured tents, open spaces, rooms supported with digital assistants, and an enchanting stage for children to strike poses, ignite dances, present their performances, and also win numerous gifts. There was lots to eat and drink too.
Driven by the need to encourage children to read books, the festival had a pretty corner setup for children to listen to some of their favourite Nigerian authors read to them. This was closely followed up with book exhibitions, book chats, book performances and story time sessions. Something exotic about the literary sessions was the embrace of diversity and inclusion in children’s literature.
Other exciting activities and events at the festival included chess tournament, sip and paint, music rendition, pop up library, sensory play area, illustrator’s corner, professional workshops and different fun games targeted at improving children’s intelligence.
Akada Children’s Book Festival is set to be part of children’s childhood experience in Nigeria, as it’s well sought out for. But beyond the borders of Nigeria, the festival aims to woo children, writers, publishers, illustrators, literary translators and creatives from far and wide. The founder, who is also an author of popular children’s books, firmly believes that one of the values needed to nurture every child is encouraging them to embrace the joy and culture of reading. This is an investment that is certain to birth future leaders that would transform nations for good.
This festival might be a one-day adventure but a day is all that is needed to influence a child positively.
Ayo Oyeku is a Fellow of Ebedi International Writers Residency. He has authored eight children’s books, and some of his books have won notable awards, including the Association of Nigerian Authors Prize for Children’s Literature. He loves reading books to children, meeting writers, and speaking at literary panels. He is the Founder of Eleventh House Publishing.