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Ellenore's Note

Representation Matters . . .A LOT!

As we all deal with a new normal in the time of the coronavirus, this topic took on an even greater meaning. Watching the responses from officials, companies and individuals around the globe has made this point acutely. Who represents us at the official, local and community level really matters. Yet, too often there are individuals and groups who are not adequately represented which can lead to devastating consequences.

We had the opportunity recently to talk about the census with Davies Chirma of ATv, among other topics, including OHBD. We discussed the importance of being counted so your voice is heard and included when number of elected representatives, resources, and the design of policies are being decided. We see this happening now during this global crisis.

We experienced this ourselves on a much, much smaller scale as we work to expand the libraries that carry our books. We need to know where populations who will benefit from our books are concentrated and to have accurate, up-to-date information, which is not so easy to find. Fear of what will be done with the information provided, as well as not knowing its importance, often holds people back. That’s why hearing from representatives in your community is so powerful in times of crisis or even better, before there is one. We were honored to be able to share our thoughts on this important topic.

Representation matters in other ways, too. Our board and staff represent a broad cross-section of communities and perspectives. We know working on hard challenges, whether it is a pandemic or literacy, requires innovation; and innovation is fueled by diverse points of view. Having representation that understands the challenges and opportunities we are focused on first-hand is priceless. Hearing from the scientists and those in countries that have experience has proved invaluable to us now. Getting input from those who grew up in households who couldn’t read or didn’t have books reminds us of the importance of our mission.

When representation is missing, the results quickly become evident – on both the global and local scale. What you can’t see, you can’t imagine being or doing. Our #ReadySetGo books are providing children in Ethiopia and the diaspora the chance to see themselves in our books. They are also providing more stories from the continent of Africa to balance all the stories from other continents which have a stronger or longer children’s literature history.

A big push this year will be to get our books in more homes, schools, and libraries around the globe since self-publishing reaches just about every populated continent except, for now, sadly, Africa. We are also exploring adding more languages, like Swahili and Somali. This will not only fund our continued work to increase opportunities for kids in Ethiopia and language and culture support for the diaspora, it will also contribute to increased representation for black and brown kids in children’s literature. This is planning for the future because these kids may be the ones helping another generation address a different global crisis. Thank you for being a part of making that happen.

REPRESENTATION REALLY MATTERS! Hope you all stay safe and healthy.

To support all the parents and kids now at home, we lowered the prices on the Kindle versions of our #ReadySetGoBooks to $1.99 from $6.99; $7.99 (or $2.99 from $9.99 if a 3 in 1 book).  See here:

Experimenting with ReadySetGo STEM Teaching Manuals

by Dr. Worku Mulat

Dangla is a small town about 300 miles from Addis on the Bahir Dar-Addis Ababa highway. It is located at the end of the rainbow as shown in the picture.

After a discussion with the OHBD Executive Director, we agreed that Dangla is a community we must learn more about, so I postponed my flight back to Seattle and went for a visit in September 2019. As soon as I arrived, I was introduced to Tewabe, a middle school physics teacher who made a name for himself through his creative approach to conducting science experiments in cost effective and transformative ways.

Like many people, I often assume high-quality education is limited to urban and affluent communities. That is why those who have the resources to do so send their children to cities such as Addis, leaving the rural educational facilities to those who cannot afford to do the same. But a visit to a middle school laboratory facility in Dangla provided me with an eye-opening experience that proved that great education relies on the dedication and contribution of teachers and communities where students live, play and study.

Tewabe shared with me three teaching manuals he had been working on and we agreed they could benefit many more teachers and students if OHBD published them.  I typed up his hand written notes and Anna, another OHBD team member, is creating illustrations. We are excited to debut our #ReadySetGo STEM books focused on Physics, Chemistry and Biology later this year.

Illustration describing how to demonstrate a vacuum by heating and cooling a flask

OHBD participates in Ethiopia Reads' Reading Summit in Addis, Ababa, Ethiopia
by Jane Kurtz

The biggest challenge and opportunity for Ready Set Go books in March was my invitation to be part of the second annual Ethiopia Reads reading summit in Addis Ababa. Around 200 people gathered over the course of two days: representatives from the Ministry of Education, educators who interact with students of many ages, writers, illustrators, and representatives from nonprofits/NGOs including Read II, the big USAID-funded project.

Overall, the tone was one of frustration and disappointment with government policy and practice, and I was glad to be able to float a balloon of hopefulness as I did a presentation showing what the Ready Set Go books can accomplish and emphasizing how the #RSG books are part of the answer for much of the concern about lack of reading comprehension. Statistics from the most recent nationwide testing of readers made it clear that reading comprehension is a huge ongoing problem. The research showed that many children who’ve been in school for two years can’t read a single word or comprehend what they did read. I made lots of contacts who will help with the ongoing creation of our books.

Early in my trip, I introduced our books to faculty and students at the International Community School of Addis Ababa. Alas, some of my follow-up appointments have been canceled due to the worldwide pandemic. I did manage to have dinner with Ingrid Olson. She shared on Facebook: “Each of the H.O.P.E. Centers we support has a mini-library. It was fun to see tons of Open Hearts Big Dreams Fund Ready Set Go books. The kids love them.” I also spent a day at the Ethiopia Reads office discussing the books with the staff there, getting feedback from the children’s librarian, and thinking together about what is working well and what can be improved in our text and illustrations. A highlight was reconnecting with Nahosenay Negussie, an extremely talented illustrator and supporter.

It’s clear that delight ripples out from the wonderful stories, nonfiction texts, and illustrations wherever we manage to distribute!

Artist Spotlight: Stephanie Schlatter

Stephanie Schlatter is a professional American artist from Michigan, and we are thrilled to feature her vibrant and inspiring landscapes of Ethiopia in Let's Go To Maji. Stephanie captures the spirit of the landscapes she encounters with rich hues and diverse strokes that draw you into her experience. With just a few brushstrokes she can so deftly tell the story of a place that she can transport you there vicariously. She has made a decade-long commitment to Ethiopia, and in addition to her gorgeous paintings of the Ethiopian countryside, she has developed early-education art programs for Ethiopian students.

About Ethiopia, she writes:
“Testing, awe-inspiring & heartbreaking – a journey you’ll never forget. You don’t explore Ethiopia for a relaxing getaway, you venture here to be moved. And moved you shall be.” – Lonely Planet Guide to Ethiopia

"And moved I was–completely changed, in fact. Ethiopia is a place where everything that is intrinsically real and raw meets the road–where every conclusion you might have about life is truly challenged.

"All assumptions vanish quickly. Materialistic impulses are challenged, followed closely by everything else that seemed so important before. Your mind goes on spinning with the sights, sounds, and smells of each day.

"Gratitude grows, not for all of the stuff you have back home. I found myself thankful to meet the people here who have so little in terms of power, prestige, and possessions, yet what they have instead seems so much more valuable.

"The children of Ethiopia are magical, good, pure… untainted. They value education, as it is the means to their very survival. Simply put, they are a beautiful inspiration to me. When I look in through those transfixing eyes, into their divine souls, I see a beautiful testament to the human spirit."

Stephanie reads Let's Go To Maji
First Annual OHBD Art Contest

Do you know a kid who likes to make art? Encourage them to enter our art contest and they could become a published illustrator! We're asking kids of all ages to pick something interesting, beautiful or inspiring about Ethiopia and turn it into a picture. There are many unique and endangered animals that can only be found in Ethiopia, as well as fantastic celebrations and festivals, rich culture, complex history, and incredible people.

We accept all mediums; some of our books have been illustrated with collage art, watercolors, markers, even crayons! And one lucky winner will win their choice of 4 Ready, Set, Go! books and a $25 Amazon gift card!

Enter here!


You Can Help Us Increase Literacy In Ethiopia!

  1. Sign up for monthly donations – every $5 and $10/monthly donation makes a real difference.
  2. Have you read one of our books? Leave us a review on Amazon and help more people discover our titles!
  3. Check out our new Ready, Set, Go! books on Amazon in three Ethiopian languages (Amharic, Tigrinya and Afaan Oromo) – follow our author page to get regular updates.
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Open Hearts Big Dreams Fund · Editor - Anna Graham · 3518 241st Ave SE · Issaquah, WA 98029 · USA

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