| April 1, 2013

Publisher Spotlight: Jacaranda Designs and Sub-Saharan Make a Reading Difference


Occasionally, Worldreader likes to showcase the work we’ve been doing with African publishing houses. This time, the spotlight falls on two companies,  Nairobi-based Jacaranda Designs and Accra-based Sub-Saharan Publishers.

Jacaranda and Sub-Saharan both epitomize the belief in utilizing alternative distribution platforms, such as e-books, and see the need for sharing literature in ways that go beyond the printed page.

“It’s time to get serious about education,” says Susan Carvalho, managing director at Jacaranda Designs, and a champion of education reform and literacy initiatives in Africa. “Let’s work together for educational change. Let’s raise the relevance and quality of learning, teaching and the system of education as a whole.”

Worldreader’s partnership with both Jacaranda and Sub-Saharan began two years ago, and has blossomed into a productive relationship, working together to distribute culturally-relevant material for children and adults. To date, we’ve digitized 45 of their titles, which has helped launch African authors into new markets.


On the forefront of a reading revolution

In addition to being on the forefront of digitization, Jacaranda and Sub-Saharan continue finding and publishing great literature. Their books fall under a large umbrella of genres that targets both the beginning and advanced reader, but all of their books boast a similar mark of quality and earnestness.

For example, Michael David Ambatchew’s Mimi Mystery from Sub-Saharan Publishers is a moving children’s story that tells the tale of Beylan, a young girl living in a small village in Ethiopia. She is a talented singer whose voice captures the attention of her community. Beylan’s mother urges her to stop singing, as the attention is unbecoming for a young woman. Here, Ambatchew displays the struggle of a young girl trying to understand her role in society. As she tries to make sense of her talents, Beylan is up against the unlikeliest of opponents: her mother.

While a children’s story, Mimi Mystery nonetheless tells a universal tale with a message that enlightens as much as it entertains. It is a coming-of-age story of self-awareness and inspiration that helps its young readers to reflect on their own upbringing and talents.

Inkishu: Myths and Legends of the Maasai by Kioi Wa Mburga, a Jacaranda book for the more advanced reader, is a delightful retelling of the historical tales of one of East Africa’s best-known communities: the Maasai. Through deft and taut storytelling, this book fosters an understanding of heritage and culture in a powerful and informative way, and that highlights universal themes such as, greed, culture and duty.

The story of Sub-Saharan Publishers and Jacaranda Designs is perhaps best told through their achievements. They have embraced technological changes in a transitional time, but remained steadfast in their search for rich literature — a combination that directly benefits children in our programs. From the east to west coast of sub-Saharan Africa, education is changing on the backs of dedicated publishers like these two.

In response to what inspires innovative work in education, Susan, from Jacaranda, says it best, “Education is the most important prerequisite for achieving socio-economic progress and peace, and that is why we are partnering with Worldreader.”

It is a team effort. At Worldreader, we sit in constant awe of the work that our publishers do, and of their willingness to take the plunge with us into the digital world. Books for all!