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 books! We worked with families from the High Point and NewHolly neighborhoods, Seattle Public Schools, Seattle Housing Authority, Somali Family Safety Task Force, local Somali leaders and a teaching artist to create and publish two board books for children–an alphabet book, Baro Af-Soomaali, and a bilingual counting book, aro Tirinta Af Soomaaliga.
About the Somali Books Project
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.
These two projects were borne out of community listening with the Somali community, practiced by all the partner organizations involved, and allowed all the parties involved to come together to share a common problem. Somalis families wanted to see themselves reflected in their schools and libraries, and also wanted to have an opportunity for deep family learning.
We have 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.
Baro Af-Soomaali and Baro Tirinta Af Soomaaliga were printed by Applewood Books and distributed by Ingram Content Group, and they are available to purchase online.
Over the past few years, organizations working with the Somali community became aware that many families in the community were worried about the loss of the language and culture and that parents were concerned about their children not being given educational materials that reflected the Somali culture. To address this need, Somali Family Safety Task Force worked with The Seattle Public Library, the Seattle Housing Authority and Seattle Public Schools and 5 Somali families to create Baro Af-Soomali.
This book serves as a resource for those interested in learning more about Somali culture and language.
The project allowed families to explore their culture and language together. Using the book, parents and grandparents told stories about their home country of Somalia to their children and grandchildren, and, through the process, the children reported that they were proud to speak Somali.
Baro Af-Soomaali was created in the summer of 2017 and officially launched Feb. 9th, 2018 during a community gathering and celebration at the NewHolly Gathering Hall. Approximately 300 people attended, including Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan who declared the day " Baro-Af Soomaali Day."
The book was noted for being Third Place Book’s fifth best seller in 2018, and the families who created it were invited to do a reading at their Seward Park location.
Baro Tirinta Af Soomaaliga
Due to the success of the first book, the team of partners, including Somali Family Safety Task Force, Seattle Public Library, Seattle Public Schools, Seattle Housing Authority, local teaching artist Amaranta Sandys and co-facilitator Maryan Abdulle decided to create another book.
Five new families were recruited to produce the new book and met during the summer of 2018 to create a bilingual counting book featuring fruits and vegetables. These families influenced all major decisions about the book, including the title, the bilingual format, the inclusion of numbers 0 through 12, and the cover design. Local teaching artist Amaranta Sandys demonstrated several art techniques and the families decided which technique to use to create all of the artwork for the book.