18 September 2016
Two events happened this weekend that brought me immense joy and satisfaction. Over the past couple of years, my friend Kofi Akpabli and I have been contributing our bits to the rejuvenation of a reading culture in Ghana, augmenting the efforts of organizations such as the Writers Project of Ghana (WPG holds a book reading at the Goethe Institute on the last Wednesday of every month) and Ghana Association of Writers who hold a fortnightly GAW Sunday event of book reading and poetry plus events on special days such as the upcoming GAWBOFEST which will be holding on 21st September, a holiday. In recent times, I have heard about other initiatives such as the one by Read Ghana, which is focused on providing Community Lead Read Literacy Services for Children in under-served areas in public primary schools, with other children in the community benefit as well. This effort is spearheaded by two amazing ladies – Klenam and Mary – and they have their next reading clinic slated for 21 September at Madina and Kwabenya. As I love to say, more vim to all the persons involved in these initiatives, which require our support.
Maukeni Padiki Kodjo is a blogger, writer and law student. She is the reigning Blogger of the Year, as awarded by Blogging Ghana, which is the key platform that organizes and provides an avenue for bloggers and persons who use social media to disseminate contents to connect and improve. Keni, as her admirers and followers call her, has been sharing her short stories in series on her popular blog kenikodjo.com. Some of the titles that she has churned out recently include Know Thy Man and Capital High. These stories are engaging and have huge following, who interact with the writer and offer creative suggestions for how the stories should unfold! What more can a writer wish for, eh? I see these stories quickly transiting onto screen soon, but we will discuss that some day.
This intense engagement should be part of the reasons why, after wrapping up on the latest series Know Thy Man, Keni decided to organize what, to me, is a first in Ghana: a meet-up for the fans of a blog to interact with the writer, her stories and characters, and to generally fraternize. According to Keni, the agenda included:
* Ask me anything’, an interactive Q and A
* Trivia quizzes
* ‘What would you have done?’ based on the #KnowThyMan series
* Photo shoots with some of the Kenikodjo characters
* Lots of networking and nibbles
And fun it was! I was unable to attend due to flight difficulties which meant I was able to get to Accra on the morning of 18th September, instead of the afternoon of the previous day as I had intended. However, again a mark of ingenuity on the part of Keni and her team, the meet-up was telecast live on Facebook, so I could follow live for a brief period but spent my evening watching the close to three hours video. In the words of Keni, “it was lit”! Young people gathering to discuss stories, characters, plots and literature. I was particularly impressed with the knowledge of the characters in the stories and quotes from the various series that the audience displayed during the trivia quiz session. Kudos to Keni! This column will be bringing you an interview with this amazing writer some time soon.
I have been part of a couples fellowship for about 14 years. This is a group of about ten couples who meet regularly to pray, study scriptures, discuss our marriages, relationships, children and other related concerns. And also to create a platform as friends to share our challenges for mutual support. And we do have fun too!
A couple of months ago, one of our members suggested that I should also make time to read to our children during one of our meetings. A bit like learning to bring charity home, since she is supposed to begin at home! After one postponement, we planned and held it on 18 September.
Frankly, even though Akpabli and I had been reading to audiences over the past three years, this was the first time I would be reading to such a young audience. However, as my friend Jonathan Agyeman mentioned to a mutual friend who asked whether she could bring 13-year olds to our upcoming book reading in Kumasi on 24 September, I have been taking my children to most of my book readings; my eldest is only 10 years. And my kids love the book readings and will usually repeat to me their favourite portions heard. So I appreciated the fact that the children within our fellowship would enjoy the readings. My main challenge was the selections to read to them and how to space out the readings.
I worried for nothing! This was one of my most enjoyable sessions ever! I started with a reading of Akpabli’s fufu and soup articles, and then moved on to a reading from “How to Be a Nigerian” by Peter Enahoro. The kids giggled throughout. After the first two readings, I invited them to ask questions. Questions ranged from the differences between soups in Ghana and Nigeria to how to drink soup. When I took my book I Speak of Ghana to read for the second round, Kwaku Ofori-Atta, one of the kids, exclaimed that he loved the book and can he read his favourite chapter, please?
I handed over the book to him and he read the chapter “You know you are in Ghana when…”. We asked him questions after his reading which he fielded remarkably. From then on, the kids took over the reading! Each child wanted to read their portions of the various books!
We had readings from Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (which was done by Papa Yaw), The Imported Ghanaian by Alba K Sumprim (my son NK read the chapter “You Are Invited”, which is his favourite chapter after hearing Alba read it at the JamRock event), Excursions in my Mind (my son NY read the chapter “Books and Knowledge”), Ladybird Favourite Stories for Boys (my 6-year old daughter and Papa Yaw read two stories from this book) and the Wimpy Kid collection (reading done by Papa Roberts). Each of the readers answered questions. The children asked for the meanings of the new words, with David Mankattah the most active, for which he won a prize: I vowed (he asked us to explain what the word “vowed” meant) to get him an favourite book of his choice from anywhere in the world. They also asked me about how they can also write books. Little Papa Yaw asked me if I can help him write his own book! Another vow was made!
The parents discussed the various, practical ways we can encourage reading amongst our children. My son NK contributed to this aspect of the discussion by encouraging the parents to get their kids adventure books. He showed one such book he had borrowed from the community library.
Feedback after the reading event was really positive. Some of the parents confessed that this was their first such event, experiencing book reading in such a manner. Ato said he had listened to book discussions on BBC a number of times which usually focused on one book and the author’s experiences and views; but the format we used, where we just read from multiple books and enjoyed the sound of the written word, was unique and refreshing. The children indicated that they enjoyed it too, learnt new words and expressions. The parents remarked on the confidence exhibited by our children in stepping up voluntarily to read, for which we were proud. Some of the children answered, when asked if they had reading sessions in their schools and time set apart for library sessions, that these were not mainstream.
A good literary weekend it was for me, both from afar and near. In the words of the hymn writer, we thank God for such and humbly ask for more.