A Decade on, Mother Tongue Stories Help Heal a Nation

On the 10th Anniversary of the Haiti Earthquake, NABU Publishing enlists a treasure trove of local creatives to promote Haitian culture through storytelling

PORT-AU-PRINCE –  JANUARY 12, 2020 – January 12, 2010, is a date that will forever be etched in the minds of Haitians globally. On this day, the nation was struck by a magnitude 7.0 earthquake, taking the lives of 250,000 and injuring hundreds of thousands more. With approximately three million Haitian people directly affected, the island faced a crisis that would cripple its economy and haunt survivors for years to come. 

A Beautiful Present for Bili

Ten years on, some of the issues Haiti experienced post-earthquake, still persist. In the last six months, the media has boasted publications highlighting Haiti’s declining economy, crumbling political stability and lack of access to basic human needs. Corruption within government sectors, and the recurrence of natural disasters over the years, have made it difficult for the people of Haiti to remain optimistic about the future of their nation. One venture, however, is giving Haitians both locally and abroad, something to smile about. 

Meet NABU Publishing, an endeavour that sets out to change the way Haitian children see themselves through the power of local storytelling. Late last year, NABU Publishing began its monthly release of bilingual Haitian children’s books that were written and illustrated for the Haitian community, by the Haitian community. To date, the organization has published six local stories in Haitian Creole -English. These stories proudly accentuate the richness and depth of Haitian culture while also broadening the minds of culturally curious children at their next bedtime.

Today, on the 10th Anniversary of the Earthquake, NABU Publishing is launching two more original titles, Little Butterfly and A Beautiful Present for Bili, written by Port-au-Prince based author Martyna Dessources and illustrated by Haitian artist Audeva Joseph. Little Butterfly is a playful poem about a butterfly accompanied by spectacular illustrations of the Haitian landscape and A Beautiful Present for Bili is a touching story of the experience an only child goes through before the birth of a new baby sibling. The bilingual Creole-English storybooks feature Haitian children of color and is sure to delight families of the Haitian diaspora while also expand the mind of any child who is curious about other cultures.

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NABU, the organization behind NABU Publishing, is a global literacy non profit. With offices in New York and Rwanda and a Foundation led by dedicated Haitians in Port-au-Prince, NABU is disrupting the cycle of poverty by leveraging technology to publish mother-tongue children’s books for free on digital platforms. Through their low bandwidth application nabu.org which is available to download on Android, they have reached 40,000 readers and their families in their programs in Rwanda and Haiti. 

It was while working in these communities that co-creators of NABU Tanyella Evans, Taniya Benedict and Isabel Sheinman found that representative, mother tongue stories for children were almost non-existent. This led them to work with Francoise Thybulle, the former Director of the Haitian National Library, to develop writer workshops, providing training for local authors and illustrators to create original stories using technology to level stories to the local curriculum. After six months, over 200 leveled books were created in Kreyol, making NABU one of the largest publishers of Creole content globally. 

NABU Publishing also brings an edited collection from Haitian creators to a US audience for the first time. Co-creator of NABU Taniya Benedict hopes that the collection will help to redress the inequality in the US publishing industry where only 13% of children’s books in the past 24 years have featured any kind of multicultural content, even though over 50% of children in the US identify as non-white. Benedict states, “the significance of seeing one’s reality in a storybook, should not be taken lightly. When you grow up reading in your mother-tongue, and actively seeing yourself represented in illustrations, you develop self-confidence that is unbound and powerful. You begin to believe that you are the creator of your own destiny, and this intrinsic belief ultimately leads to self-actualization.”

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NABU Publishing will release two new story books every month in the US from their network of authors in Haiti and Africa. Proceeds from the sale of these books will go directly towards NABU’s Foundation in Haiti.

Buy here: www.nabu.org/buybooks