First Look: It Takes a Child to Raise a Village


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This preliminary version is long for a kids’ picture book. It’s
over 100 pages of stories and pictures and heart-rending snapshots
of the lives of these incredible young women. It includes a set of
questions for kids and other readers so they can apply the learnings
from these stories to their own lives.

How This Book Is Being Developed

In February, 2010, I spent a week on the campus of the URDT
Girls’ School in western Uganda. Since I have visited the campus
several times before, I was familiar with the parent organization
(Uganda Rural Development and Training Programme). I know the
founders and many of the staff members, and I’m familiar with many
of the organizations and programs on the 80-acre campus (Vocational
Institute, University, Radio Station, Demonstration Farm, Internet
Café, Library, Social and Land Rights counseling, etc.) But this was
the first visit on which I’d really focused on learning about the
Girls’ School. (I had led a teachers’ workshop in the Fall of 2009
during which I began to understand more about what’s really unique
about the Girls’ School and its sister community schools.

Before my visit, I had planted the idea of getting the 240 girls
at the school to write and illustrate a children’s book — a book
written by them for other children. The principal, co-founder, and
teachers at the school were very supportive, particularly since
this Spring marks the 10th anniversary of the founding of the URDT
Girls’ School. But nobody had had the time to mobilize the girls
to start writing their stories and drawing pictures.

I gave myself a week to either gather enough materials for this
book, or to table the project. Alida Bakema Boon, the co-founder
of the Girls’ School, was generous with her time and her coaching.
We began together by meeting with the teachers to explain the
project to them. Then I met with all of the girls in their early
morning group assembly, told them about the book project, and
asked for their help. The teachers turned over some of their class
time to me, so I was able to meet for about 90 minutes with each
(but not all) of the girls’ classes, from Primary 4 (equivalent of
our 4th grade) to Senior 6 (equivalent to our first year of college).
The classes varied in size from 16 girls to close to 30 girls.

I asked the students in each class to write stories and to draw
pictures about their “Back Home” projects — the projects that
they and their families carry out at home while the girls are at their
boarding school. At first, the essays weren’t very imaginative.
They were just writing down basic facts. An American colleague,
Susan Warshauer, who had been living and working at URDT for
several months, reminded me that theirs is an oral culture. So, I
began asking them to just stand up and tell their stories to their
classmates. I asked clarifying questions as they did. Then, after
several girls in each class had told their stories, I asked them
to write them down. And I asked the other girls to write their own
stories as if they were telling their friends. This seemed to work

For the illustrations, I handed out colored felt tip pens and
pads of paper and asked the girls to either illustrate the stories
they had told, or to draw a picture of their vision, their
current reality/vision/and action steps they were taking, and/or
to illustrate something that they had learned to do — like how to
raise chickens or perform in a play, or present a radio program.

The drawings and essays you’ll find in this book were all first
drafts. I didn’t want to impose upon the girls’ time during a busy
week in which they were also preparing for their exams to revise,
rewrite, or perfect their drawings. So I used these quickly produced
essays and drawings for this book. I find the drawings beautiful
and compelling and the girls’ own words moving. I hope you will too.

Used Tikatok to Produce This First Version. About
two years ago, I learned and wrote
about Tikatok, a Web site that is designed for kids to create and
publish their own books. Since this is a book written by kids for kids,
I decided to use to create this initial version of the
girls’ book. It has been a really rewarding experience. I have
been amazed by how easy it has been to upload and position
pictures on a page and to create, edit, and format blocks of text,
and to produce countless previews and PDFs to print and revise. I
kept expecting to run into limitations in the number of drawings
or pages I could have, but there are none. I expected the Web-based
application to freeze up or crash, or for something to get corrupted
or to go awry. But each time I have come back to revise the book
in progress, I have been rewarded with an easy-to-use, stable
and consistent experience. When I had questions, Neal, Tikatok’s
tireless architect and customer support guru, would email me an
answer within 24 hours. I found the fact that Tikatok’s formatting
options are limited was a good thing. It meant that I didn’t
waste too much time fiddling with special effects.

The only feature I wish that Tikatok offered is the ability to
create multiple versions, by copying the original and then editing
it to produce a different version of the book. I know this book
will continue to evolve. This is the first version that I am
sending to Uganda for the girls to see. I’m sure they’ll have
changes and suggestions and additional material to add. And I’d
like to create a version that is better suited to younger kids,
one for teachers, one for parents, and one for potential donors.
Right now, my only choice is to start over and recreate each new
version from scratch, or to save each version as a downloaded PDF and
then edit the single original.

You Can Download, Enjoy, and Share the PDF. This
first version of the book is quite large — over 100 pages. Future
versions will be smaller and hence easier to share with friends
and family members. There’s not that much text, but there are a
lot of pictures. I recommend that you download it and read it
electronically. You should assume that it may take a few minutes
to download. If it takes too long to download from our Web site,
we offer an alternative download experience from Pando.

Purchasing Bound Copies. I will be using
Tikatok to print soft cover and hard cover versions of this book
and its next versions. I am happy to offer bound printed copies to
anyone who would like to purchase them. The proceeds (beyond the
printing and shipping costs) will go directly to the URDT Girls
School for their scholarship program. (Tuition and room and board are
provided free of charge for the 240 girls who live and study at
the Girls School.)

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Patricia Seybold
With 30 years of experience consulting to customer-centric executives in technology-aggressive businesses across many industries, Patricia Seybold is a visionary thought leader with the unique ability to spot the impact that technology enablement and customer behavior will have on business trends very early. Seybold provides customer-centric executives within Fortune 1 companies with strategic insights, technology guidance, and best practices.


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