Book club pumps up the volume

07 March 2016 - 02:30 By Tanya Farber

Some of the country's top writers, illustrators, designers and editors gathered for 12 gruelling but thrilling hours on Saturday to produce 10 new children's story books. Called the Book Dash, the event at the Centre for the Book in Cape Town did in a single day what normally takes publishers months.Teams work voluntarily, and while a single title can cost up to R50000 in commercial publishing, a Book Dash event produces about 10 high-quality titles at a total cost of R80000.Book Dash is the brainchild of social entrepreneur Arthur Attwell.The model he has developed means the only cost is printing. Sponsors can order print runs online.Attwell said "children in South Africa need more books, but they cost too much if purchased from publishers"."The first few years of a child's life - especially the first 1 000 days - are when most of the cognitive development happens. If more books are made accessible to children, the bigger the impact on the next generation."There have been six Book Dash days in the past two years - in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban.Some of the books have seen upwards of 2500 copies ordered by sponsors, and 13 of its titles being translated into 11 languages, effectively producing more than 140 new editions.Illustrator Catherine Holtzhausen spent the day immersed in the process. "I majored in illustration. When I heard about Book Dash I fell in love with the vision and mission."Writer Philippa Namutebi Kabali-Kagwa said: "I am a storyteller and I grew up with so few books that had black people in them. I didn't see myself there. But stories grow our imagination and it's beautiful for kids to recognise themselves between the pages. When I saw the images the illustrator for Katiiti's Song had drawn, I really teared up."

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