On this year’s World Read Aloud Day, it is a real pleasure to have Nigerian Author, Editor and children’s book writer Ayo Olofintuade as our guest. Ayo became more visible on Nigeria’s literary scene after her book ENO’S STORY published in 2010 earned her a Nigeria Prize for Literature nomination.
She is more interesting because she isn’t only about writing books, but wants people; particularly Nigerians; to read books. To actualize this challenge she founded LAIPO Mobile Library which has engaged hundreds of Nigerian children in reading and other literary activities.
We are also inspired by her human rights activism.
We caught up with Ayo at her Ibadan base and had a good chat, after which she graciously read a passage from her heartwarming new work KING OF THE HEAP, in celebration of 2017’s World Read Aloud Day. Enjoy.
AFRIKAJUMP- Thanks for sharing your time with us Ayo. You were our top choice on the blog today also because of your spirited efforts in the area of literacy with Nigerian children. Why are you so involved?
AYO- I grew up reading, so when I discovered that a lot of children do not have access to libraries or good books I decided to do something about it.
AFRIKAJUMP- Congrats. We are excited about your new book “King of the heap”. What inspired it?
AYO- One of the things I discovered while running the mobile library project in public and lower income private schools is that the children enjoy books with characters they are familiar with. King of the heap was written for the children I teach. They are the children you see on the streets after school hours, during holidays and on weekends, selling things by the roadside. These are my heroes because they’re determined to make a life for themselves in spite of all the odds stacked against them.
AFRIKAJUMP- We hear the book isn’t going to be widely distributed, but will feature in some select libraries- some consolation. Why is this so?
AYO- I applied for a business grant from the Tony Elumelu Foundation, I had such grand plans but things didn’t work out the way I’d envisaged them, because of the economy and sheer incompetence of the people I worked with. Instead of completely losing out I made the decision to keep the circulation low while I work on other business models that can work in the situationship called Nigeria.
AFRIKAJUMP- Why have you chosen to write for children?
AYO- I am that eternal child that still watches cartoons and reads comics.
AFRIKAJUMP- What was your favorite book as a child?
AYO- My Father’s Daughter by Mabel Segun, basically because it features a black, female character who went on the same adventure as boys.
AFRIKAJUMP- Who’s your favourite Author now? You only get to choose one… hehehe evil, I know.
AYO- You are Evil. But I’m presently enamoured with Yaa Gyasi. Her book ‘Homegoing’ provided a much needed insight into the slavery period in Africa, particularly what happened in the Gold Coast.
AFRIKAJUMP- On this year’s World Read Aloud day, how do you think the reading culture of your country can be improved?
AYO- The only way is the provision of quality education that makes reading (and I’m not talking about textbooks here) its chief concern.
AFRIKAJUMP- Can you describe your city in one word?