Storybooks by and for children: The experience of Soma Book Café in facilitating children’s creativity
Soma Book Cafe in Dar es Salaam is a readership promotion space and innovative co-creation hub for literary expression and multimedia storytelling approaches. It provides different arenas for literary expression and discourse; promotes reading for pleasure and encourages independent pursuit of knowledge. Soma, which means read or learn in Kiswahili, is an apt name for an organization that strongly encourages both.
Watoto na Vitabu is Soma’s children’s storytelling programme. It seeks to cultivate creativity, love of reading, communication, and critical consciousness among children through interactive reading and storytelling. Soma's ambition is for this programme to function as a resource for multimedia content creation with and for children. In February 2019, Soma undertook a research and writing process with children on a pilot basis, experimenting with how to facilitate children to research and write original stories inspired by Tanzanian storytelling traditions. Its purpose was to generate insights and data on early literacy content creation with and for children. Through this project, Soma intended to systematically test and document its methodological approach as a replicable model, with tangible outputs to show for it. This case study documents Soma's process and the findings of this pilot project.
Book titles produced out of this project have contributed to Soma’s debut Kalamu Ndogo (Little Scribes) series. The series is written by children for children. These stories are also informed by how the children experience contemporary realities and their aspirations beyond the here and now.