African story


As part of its mission to promote knowledge and cooperation in cultural and educational opportunities across the globe, especially amongst the most vulnerable groups, the British Council in collaboration with Saide’s African Storybook Initiative, organised a week-long residential workshop in Abuja, Nigeria, from 12th to 16th March 2018, for the production of mother-tongue based multilingual storybooks. The workshop which was facilitated by two trainers from the African Storybook Initiative aimed to promote the arts, education and mother-tongue-based multilingual education in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Following a public call for application, 25 participants were selected from four West African countries:  Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone. Criteria for their selection included: Experience in language or literacy education, computer literacy skills, competency in reading and writing at least two or more indigenous African languages and English, being an unpublished writer of children’s stories, an interest in storybooks for children, and an original idea for a story or knowledge of a traditional indigenous story . Most participants strongly agreed that the workshop had met their expectations and by the end of the workshop, 20 draft storybook manuscripts had been developed in indigenous African languages including Hausa, Kanuri, Pidgin and English.

The workshop identified the lack of access to storybooks, especially in mother-tongue languages, at home and in schools as well as a lack of collaboration amongst writers, as factors to contributing to the low literacy levels of children in Sub-Saharan Africa. Key learnings included the gap caused by the lack of storybooks with content reflecting the African context for children in Sub-Saharan Africa, appropriate reading levels essential for promoting early literacy, page breaking (word counting per page), vocabulary selection, thumbnail sketching and other stages of illustration, ‘how to write little but packed with details interesting storybooks’,  and, the importance of the three-way relationship between the writer,illustratorand editor in storybook manuscript development. 

Download the document in the downloads section to learn more about the process of making the stories at the workshop.

Story Writers Criteria for selection

  • Can write (speak and read) competently in 2 (or more) languages: an indigenous African language and English. Writers of the following languages are strongly encouraged to apply: Pidgin, Ashanti Twi, Ga, Krio, Mende, Themne, Limba, Pulaar, Wolof, Kanuri, Fulfulde, Ijaw or Igbo; other languages will be considered. A competent writer pays attention to these aspects of written language: style and clarity of expression, vocabulary choices, creative and imaginative language use, grammar, spelling and punctuation.
  • Have at least 2 years of experience as a language or literacy educator – e.g. teacher, librarian, lecturer (or other relevant educational work with young children and/or language teaching). It will be an advantage if you have a degree or diploma in one of the following areas: Education, Language / Literature, or Transl
  • Have computer literacy skills – are comfortable typing on a keyboard (standard or most accepted orthography of the language) and using Microsoft Word (or other word processing program).
  • Have not previously published a storybook for children
  • Have an original idea for a story or a character or know a traditional indigenous story.
  • Allow your work to be released under a Creative Commons Attributions License which allows your work to be used freely by others.
  • Would like to work with other participants to develop, write and translate openly licensed stories.

Storybook Illustrators criteria for selection

  • Preferably have at least 2 years of experience in illustration work, and ideally, experience in illustrating for educational publishing.
  • Can read and speak English. Knowledge of Pidgin, Ashanti Twi, Ga, Krio, Mende, Themne, Limba, Pulaar, Wolof, Kanuri, Fulfulde, Ijaw or Igbo will be desirable.
  • Allow your work to be released under a Creative Commons Attributions License which allows your work to be used freely by others.
  •  Are confident that you can achieve the following within 2- 2 ½ days at the workshop:

- with discussion and support, conceptualise 12 pictures for a 12-page children’s story

- draw rough sketches for 12 pictures

- finalise sketches after feedback and create line drawings

-  add colour to line drawings

- finalise 12 colour pictures (as png files)