Monrovia – Reading is an unusually hobby for an ordinary Liberian, but breaking the odds, Monrovia Reads gathers children, adults and young adults from all walks of life at Peace Café in Monrovia to inculcate this habit of reading in children and young adults.
The readers and guests sat on a cool Friday evening listening to award winning poets like Mr. Lekpele M. Nyamalon, Josiah F. Joekai and other Liberian authors read their creative works- poems and short stories.
The audience eagerly listened and thereafter in their interactions asked questions after each author read.
Walking across the room, as brilliant writers read their works, FPA stumbled across a young female writer, Ms. Elizabeth Horton who is about to publish her first literary work.
Elizabeth, like any other writer, is excited to see her work about to reach her targeted audience and make an impact.
Elizabeth explained that her book talks of resilience and how people can overcome some of the challenges they face in life and become successful in a society where things are difficult.
“When I started writing, I did not find or know of many young people engaged in writing, but since I have been with FORTE Publishing, I am interacting with many other writers; interestingly there are many ladies like myself who are passionate about writing."
"I want to be a great and well known writer so that my work can inspire others around the world. I do not only want it limited to Liberia. I want my stories to not only to touch people’s lives, but also encourage a change in their lives as well,” Elizabeth said.
Quite interestingly, Elizabeth did Public Administration and Economics, however, she wants to do her Master’s in Education and become a professor and an educator; she also has plans to open her own school down the line and bring society to where she wants it to be.
FPA later bumped into Kpanah Gaygay, another young writer whose case was entertaining. She writes some of her pieces in Kolokwa or Liberian English.
She is also expected to launch her maiden book, Daunting Years: The Liberian Civil War in the Eyes of a Child. It is novel about her and her family’s experiences during the Liberian Civil war.
“I do the Kolokwa because many foreigners are eager to know what we are saying when we speak our own Liberian English.
Even though many seem to think that when we speak our own Kolokwa, it shows that one is under educated, but it is not like that. I
t is unique when we speak Kolokwa, because I think it is our own trade mark, our signature tone, so we should embrace it in a more positive way.
She continued, “The Ghanaians and Nigerians feel proud to speak their pidgin language, so why shouldn’t we”
A perfect example of her work she did a Kolokwa piece on corruption, which she feels is the simplest way of communicating with her audience in the market places and other local communities.
“Many people down there feel corruption is for the book people, but if I write something about embezzlement or misappropriation of government funds and term it as stealing, even the market woman down there who won’t understand our Standard English, will know what I am talking about,” Gaygay added.
“Election is coming, and they coming again with their Big Big koloma, which means they are coming with their big, big lies or during elections period."
"If I use these jargons, it will appeal to all the Ma Kebehs, or old man Musa who will understand what it means.
This way, when people are talking about corruption, they will understand and not the big words they hear over radio,” she said.
Monrovia READS is said to bring together Liberian authors and give them direct links to their Liberian public or their audiences.
It promotes 100 percent Liberian Literature - its readers and authors tell Liberian folk tales, poems, short stories and other writings.
“FORTE Publishing has on her list over 10 Liberian published authors; we also have authors from of other nationalities. Last year we published about nine books written by Liberian authors and we will do more this year.
We do not limit Monrovia READS to only authors of FORTE Publishing, it is opened to any Liberian writer/author or other professions who also dabbles in the field of writing. They can all come and read. The program is gaining more momentum than expected. Monrovia READS is at this time sponsored by FORTE Publishing,” D. Othniel Forte said.
Pointing out that Monrovia is the central part of Liberia so they intend to start the program before decentralizing it to other parts of the country, Forte said Monrovia Reads is a baby project of READ Liberia, a project called Read Liberia; they started a few years back.
Its intent was to have 100,000 words read across Liberia and in all of the counties, but the campaign was unsuccessful due to complicated logistics, so they started it on a smaller note called Monrovia READS.
“We read to primary schools because it takes us to the basics; to improve our reading culture as we do at Monrovia READS. We can make changes from all levels, but it is better if we started from down there."
"We find it comforting visiting these reading rooms, kindergarten and elementary levels learners. They have a passion, an eagerness that makes it rewarding. Yet we read also at junior and senior high schools.
The program costs nothing for the schools or institutions. They only have to book us in advance, make the students ready; provide teachers willing to assists and put the students in a comfortable learning environment. This bit is important,” Forte added.
He disclosed that they have visited about three schools, the Alexander B. Cummings Model School of Science and Technology, and two schools of Kids Engagement Educational Project, (KEEPS) and they also went at a Rosetta’s Step Educational Foundation.
And all his readers are excited because they did not imagine that the kids would be so responsive, eager and ready.
Admittedly, because of the notion of not having a reading culture in Liberia, their expectations were slightly lower, however, their visits to the schools have given them a renewed hope.
“When we visited these schools and reading rooms, the kids were so involved and excited.
They participated in the process enthusiastically be it in the reading of the poems or stories. They just got involved.
Therefore, we encourage the public to support Monrovia READS, but equally as important, to encourage a reading culture whichever way they can.
Monrovia READS is just one platform, a step on a long ladder. We can all do this; we could start by reading to our children at home or if one cannot read, one can give them access to books so that they can read by themselves, most especially Liberian books."
"Get them in the position where they are always reading,” he averred.
As for the number of years in the work of publishing, Forte said they have been publishing for nearly seven years, and they are encouraging Liberians who would want to publish-books of any kind, memoirs, novels, academic, children’s book etc. in the future to contact FORTE Publishing.
They can be found via their website or on social media. And all their books are listed on Amazon and every major book retailer. They are a fully owned Liberian publishing firm that can get the job done.
Source: Front Page Africa