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    Somali Book Celebration
    Posted on 02/16/2018
    Somali book cover

    Baro Af-Soomaali: Celebration of Language and Culture

    This February, the Seattle community came together at New Holly Gathering Hall in Southeast Seattle to celebrate the launch of a very special children’s book. The colorful board book, titled “Baro Af-Soomaali,” is unique in several aspects.

    The authors and leaders pose for a photoThe book, which was completed the Summer 2017, grew out of the realization that the number of Somali language children’s books is limited. It also stemmed from challenges expressed by many Somali families about their experiences navigating race, culture and identity on top of their educational experience.

    The book represents family and community-partner collaborating to directly benefit young students, honoring Somali parents for the strengths they bring to our school communities, fostering welcoming schools and expanding the selection of learning materials that are culturally relevant. The community partnership included Seattle Somali families, Somali Family Safety Task Force, Seattle Public Schools, Seattle Housing Authority, and Seattle Public Library.

    With limited Somali book publishers or distributers, the stock of books that families can share with their children that feature Somali language and culture are scarce. The Seattle Public Library has approximately 200 books in Somali and less than half are children’s books.

    Books on tableBaro Af-Soomaali translates to ‘learning Somali’ in English. It is small enough to fit in to a young child’s hand but strong enough to generate conversations, smiles, and laughter as families and children share their culture and language.

    The book centers on teaching the Somali alphabet through symbols selected by Somali families. The authors brought the cultural symbols and artwork in from their homes to be photographed for inclusion next to the appropriate letter of the Somali alphabet. For example, a photo of a colorful, tightly-woven basket is included alongside the Somali word for basket ‘Dambiil.’

    The February celebration was held in the authors’ community at the New Holly Gathering Hall. Mayor Jenny Durkan, Superintendent Larry Nyland, Library Programs and Services Director Tom Fay, SHA Executive Director Andrew Lofton joined more than 300 families and community members to honor the families that designed the book.

    Parent and leadersAfter several rounds of edits, the final draft was submitted to the publisher in November. The first print run of 1,000 books is being distributed to the community partners and each participating family will get several copies of the book. The development of the book was funded in part by The Seattle Public Library Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Race to the Top Deep Dive 3 with Puget Sound Educational Service District and Community Center for Education Results.

    The book is to download for free as a PDF copy on the library’s website.

    Baro Af-Soomaali represents one example of how Seattle Public Schools is working with partners and families to help create identity-safe classrooms and educational communities.

    When children see themselves, their culture and their traditions reflected in their classrooms, their teachers and their administrators, they feel more welcomed, supported and valued. Seattle Public Schools hopes this book is a start to honoring and welcoming the strengths of the diverse families we have the pleasure of serving.

    Pictures for this article were photographed by Melissa Ponder.