The Seattle Public Library has about 200 books in Somali, according to the library system, and under half are children’s books. There are very few board books.
Thursday February 15, 2018
By Jessica Lee
Ruman Abdi, 10, and Maryam Ahmed, 11, hand autographed copies of “Baro Af-Soomaali” to a buyer during the launch for the Somali alphabet book at the NewHolly Gathering Hall in Southeast Seattle on Friday. (Courtney Pedroza/The Seattle Times)
Over meals of traditional food and tea, five Somali mothers and their children gathered in their NewHolly neighborhood this past year to create a children’s book.
The Seattle families brought in family possessions, rooted in Somali culture, to be photographed to appear alongside the appropriate letter of the alphabet. The plan now is to distribute 1,000 copies of “Baro Af-Soomaali” locally, before marketing the book more broadly.
Necessity was the mother of invention for these families as they decided to do something about the fact that even in Seattle — where the Somali community is among the largest in the nation — there aren’t enough books in Somali.
Packed into the NewHolly Gathering Hall in Southeast Seattle, a crowd of hundreds celebrated the launch Friday of the new children’s alphabet board book, “Baro Af-Soomaali,” for the Seattle Public Library system and beyond. The title translates to “learning Somali.”
The overarching goal of the project: to provide a tool for Somali parents who want to share their culture while teaching their children English.
During their workshops, each family was assigned letters and began creating artwork for the book. They brought in family possessions, rooted in Somali culture, to be photographed to appear alongside the appropriate letter of the alphabet. Next to “D,” for instance, is the word “Dambiil” and a picture of a basket.
Project leaders plan to distribute 1,000 copies of “Baro Af-Soomaali” locally, before marketing it to libraries, schools and retailers across the country and globe, according to the library system and Seattle Housing Authority. The book will also be available as a free PDF download on the system’s website.
The book was funded in part by The Seattle Public Library Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Race to the Top Deep Dive 3 with Puget Sound Educational Service District and Community Center for Education Results.