One Moore Book is using culture to cultivate literacy.
When writer and literary entrepreneur Wayetu Moore got the notion to send books to underprivileged children around the world, she didn’t just dust off a few of her childhood favorites and ship off a box — she created books for children that speak to their unique cultural experiences.
Moore’s publishing company, One Moore Book, is launching The Haiti Series later this month — a collection of six children’s books that feature Haitian culture and, she hopes, will get more children in the U.S. and abroad interested in reading.
She says the idea came to her while volunteering for a nonprofit in D.C. where she led literacy workshops for classrooms full of Black children whose reading skills weren’t up to speed and whose enthusiasm for reading was nonexistent. However, when she insisted the children read books with Black characters, she noticed a change in the students.
“All of a sudden, their eyes would just perk up when they saw characters on the page that sort of look like them even if it was from a different culture. Their interest in literature increased,” Moore told BET.com.
"That experience always stayed with me and I told myself, at some point in my life, I know I want to write books for a multicultural audience. I want to write books that help children to see themselves in literature."
The Haiti Series is Moore’s second venture. The first was geared toward her native Liberia, and she says the creative books went over well in the U.S. and in Liberia. For every book that Moore sold for full price, a portion of the sale funds the donation of a book to Liberia — a model she will continue with The Haiti Series.
Among the roster of talented Haitian illustrators and writers featured in The Haiti Series are Edwidge Danticat and artist Edouard Duval Carrie. The pair teamed up on The Last Mapou, a book that illustrates Haiti’s culture of oral history and the cultural legacy of the mapou through the story of a girl and her dying grandmother.
“A mapou is a very important religious and national symbol in Haiti. It’s a tree that can live hundreds of years,” Danticat explained to BET.com.
The author says her own first encounter with storytelling was through the oral tradition of her family.
“Storytellers were my first writing teachers,” she said. “And the book has some of that feel in that you have a grandmother passing on a story to her granddaughter. Passing on the legend of this tree.”
Although she can remember her first book fondly, Danticat was drawn to the project by her encounters with children who don’t have access to literature.
“Not every child has that opportunity of being read to or having a book that is their own,” she said.
One Moore Book is launching the Haiti Series on Jan. 26 in New York City with a fundraising event featuring the art of Edouard Duval Carrie.
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(Photo: Lee Celano/Getty Images)