Children’s book lets imagination take flight
When Virginia Dike moved to the country in the early 1970s with her young family, she discovered that Nigeria had so many fascinating birds and she wanted to share them with her children and other children. But she couldn’t find books on Nigerian or West African birds. Instead, the bookshops had plenty of books about birds from the United States and Britain.
So in 1986, the professor of Library Studies at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, decided to write Birds of Our Land, a child’s guide to West African birds that aimed to introduce children and adults to some of the many captivating birds around them. This month, Cassava Republic Press, an Abuja-based book publisher, is reissuing this classic book with entirely new illustrations and an activities page.
More than a great read
Through its rich, poetic descriptions Birds of Our Land offers children a gateway to the natural world by introducing them to the basics of bird watching. It explains the basic features of birds and key things to note in observing them. The book is accompanied by beautiful paintings by illustrator Robin Gowen of 25 birds representing the major species in the region. Most are birds that children are likely to come across in their own yards, while a few are less familiar but amazing in some way. This book also comes with a wall poster of all the birds and a guide for teachers and parents.
One special feature of the new revised edition is that it features each bird’s name in the three main Nigerian languages: Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba. Children, especially those in urban centres, will be introduced to indigenous terms showing that English is not the only language for naming things in the natural environment.
Birds of Our Land is more than a great read. It is the perfect tool for parents and educators encouraging children to spend more time outdoors exploring the world of nature and giving them an appreciation of the beauty and interdependence of all forms of life.
A passion for nature
Author Virginia Dike is the head of the Department of Library and Information Science at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. She has a BA in History from Harvard University, an MA in Education and an MSc in Library Science, both from Columbia University. She is also a founding member of The Children Centre Library at the University of Nigeria in Nsukka. Though not an environmentalist, Dike has had a lifelong passion for nature.
“I believe that if we want Nigerian children to know and appreciate the gift of nature, we need to provide books that will foster that knowledge and appreciation by reflecting the natural world around them,” she said.
She notes that non-fiction literature is a much-neglected area in Nigerian children’s books and that what is available – to some extent – are textbooks.
“Yet children need information books written as literature to satisfy their curiosity,” Dike said. “I believe that if we want Nigerian children to know and appreciate the gift of nature, we need to provide books that will foster that knowledge and appreciation by reflecting the natural world around them.”
A new kind of children’s literature
The book is part of a broader drive by Cassava Republic to change the way children’s literature in Africa is regarded. Birds of Our Land is the first in a series of reference books that will not only increase children’s knowledge, but enhance their understanding of the natural world around them. Others books in the series will focus on trees, flowers, the seasons and many more.
Cassava Republic is also passionately committed to ensuring that affordable, beautifully-made books are available to the Nigerian market. Birds of Our Land is sure to be a valuable addition to what is a growing pool of high-quality local literature.
Birds of Our Land: A Child’s Guide to West African Birds will be available from February 2012. For more information about placing pre-orders, or if you would like to conduct and email interview with the author, contact: email@example.com or call: 0818 580 2634.