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Books from Blank Pages

Country: Cameroon, AFRICA
Languages: 279
SIL language projects in progress: 27

Books. They are everywhere in the developed world. Bookstores and publishers abound. With the introduction of coffee shop/bookstores, the search for a good book has even become a social event. But for people in developing countries books are hard to come by. Especially in the mother-tongue languages of the people.

Recently in Cameroon, SIL literacy coordinator and consultants, Gordon Martin, Mary Annett and Mike Andrus organized a course, "Foundations of Literature Production".

Gordon Martin, Mary Annett and Mike Andrus with the participants of "Foundations of Literature Production"

They designed the course specifically to help language projects produce their own literature - without the complicated technology of computers. Twelve participants from four language groups, Makaa, Kako, Nugunu, and Yambetta gathered together to learn the steps to publishing literature in the mother-tongue. The course is based on modules that participants work through at their own pace.

Two participants work together on their manuscripts

Precision is key when it's time for page layoutParticipants brought a manuscript each and were taught how to edit and "typeset" the text, choose or draw illustrations for the text, and cut and paste the camera-ready copy together. They also took the finished product to a local printer for printing. Four books were published by the end of the course and eight more await publication.

The oldest participant, 81 years of age, concentrates on the next step to literature productionOne 81 year old participant came with a detailed description of his village's history. It included details on members of each family group. He worked diligently throughout the course and when he finally comprehended how the page sequence of his book needed to be laid out for printing, he said, "Aha, now I know the secret of making books." Other participants produced books on health issues and local folk tales.

It was no surprise when after two weeks of hard work spontaneous celebrations broke out at the arrival of the printed copies of participant's books. One person exclaimed, "Oh, this is SO sweet!"

To keep participants accountable for the skills they gained, they will be required to produce one more book within the year in order to receive a certificate of completion.

From this one course there is the potential of 24 new, mother-tongue books - a good start for potential libraries and bookstores in the local community (i.e. six new titles for each of the local communities represented).

Everyone hard at work making their way through the course modules

Submitted by: Kelly Mitchell, Literacy Specialist Cameroon

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