A community-created alphabet book for Somali families
What do you do when your Library system doesn’t have enough children’s books in Somali? You partner with the community to create your own Somali book! We worked with five families from the NewHolly neighborhood, Seattle Public Schools, Seattle Housing Authority, Somali Family Safety Task Force and a local Somali poet and community activist to create Baro Af-Soomaali.
We have a very small number of Somali books in our collection compared to other languages. It is especially difficult for us to get Somali children’s books, and we recognized a need in our community for picture books for babies and toddlers. Our community team worked together in a dynamic, innovative and fun partnership to produce, print and distribute the book.
The book creation workshops were held in a meeting room on the NewHolly campus. Families arrived, shared a delicious Somali meal and tea, and had time to visit. The group discussed the layout of the book, assigned a series of letters to each family and created artwork for each letter of the alphabet. Cultural items, valued by the family and rooted in Somali culture, were brought from home and photographed for inclusion in the book.
This unique collaboration resulted in Baro Af-Soomaali, a Somali language children’s board book, created by Somali families, supported by the Library and partners, published by Applewood Books and distributed domestically and internationally by Ingram.
The library has a deep commitment to community engagement and this project was the result of listening to concerns from the community about the desire for family engagement opportunities centered in the Somali community, culture, and language, as well as the need for more Somali books. This project represents one way to respond to those needs in a fun way that furthers a sense of community, and helps us think about ways to broaden these types of experiences for patrons in the future. We hope to continue creating more books with the Somali community in the future.
This program was made possible by Somali Family Safety Task Force, Mohamed Shidane, Seattle Public Schools, Seattle Housing Authority and The Seattle Public Library.