Friday, October 30, 2020

100th Book That Spotlights Ethiopian Stories

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Nationwide Ready Set Go Books, a publishing initiative established by the non-profit Open Hearts Big Dreams to increase access to books and thus support literacy in Ethiopia, has released its 100th book. The book, Letter From a Plow Nation written by Dr. Worku Mulat and illustrated by Daniel Getahun, furthers Ready Set Go Books’ objective to publish books that both entertain and inform young readers by telling vibrant stories that not only spotlight Ethiopian characters, lives, and languages, but also expose readers to the country’s ever-growing community of authors and illustrators.

Children need to see themselves and their lives reflected in books. Children also need to see lives and experiences that are unlike their own to gain empathy and understanding in a diverse world. It’s with these two ideas in mind that Ready Set Go Books was launched.

Ethiopia is Africa’s second-most populous country, with nearly half of that population composed of children under fourteen. Recent country-wide reading surveys have shown that too few children are learning to read in Ethiopian schools. One big reason is a lack of books that are appealing and in local languages.

With 100 individual titles, Ready Set Go Books is taking big first steps to address that challenge. But children seeing their worlds reflected back at them through books is not a problem-centered in only one country. Even though half of all children in the United States are of color, only 23% of children’s books published in the US in 2018 had protagonists of color. Because of this, Ready Set Go Books also publishes and distributes their books worldwide in English, so that children across the globe have a chance to see lives in stories that can open the world for them.

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The organization’s 100th book, Letter from a Plow Nation, is an example of that work. “One of the goals from the very beginning of Ready Set Go Books was to encourage Ethiopian writers and illustrators,” says Ready Set Go Books creative director, Jane Kurtz, an American author who spent most of her childhood in rural Ethiopia. “Worku and Daniel make a powerful team with their vision and determination to inspire young Ethiopians everywhere.” The story provides a look at the history and current use of ox plow farming, a millennia-old tradition still in use today. Using this history as a frame, Mulat creatively explores agricultural technology and food insecurity in modern-day Ethiopia, and ends with an energizing call to action for young people.

Featuring stunning illustrations by Getahun, an Ethiopian-Canadian artist, Letter From a Plow Nation is a reflection of Ready Set Go Books’ mission in both subject and through its creators. “Both Worku and Daniel have compelling life stories that show the power of literacy and education,” explains Open Hearts Big Dreams Executive Director, Ellenore Angelidis. And they bring that into their work, she continues, by creating stories that “reach back in time as well as inspire for the future. Plow Nation also has an interesting vantage point of having the country of Ethiopia as the narrator.”

Ready Set Go is excited about the release of Plow Nation, and the chance to continue sharing these stories. The organization held a series of online events to celebrate their 100th release, including giveaways, highlights of their publishing history, behind-the-scenes stories, and more. The community can support their efforts by following Open Hearts Big Dreams on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. Review copies are also available by request. Reflecting on her work at Ready Set Go, Kurtz says that being a part of this project has given her “hope and joy. I’m proud to be part of a team of Ethiopians and Americans who believe that humans share their best ideas through words and pictures -- and we can all do our part to get good books into the hands of readers.”

Learn more about Open Hearts Big Dreams at

About Ready Set Go Books
An initiative of the 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, Open Hearts Big Dreams Fund, Ready Set Go Book Project is designed to close the key gap that exists in the lack of sufficient early reader content by publishing creating colorful, culturally-appropriate books for Ethiopian readers and beyond. These easy-to-read books are inspired by stories, proverbs, and scenes from daily life in Ethiopia.

About Dr. Worku Mulat (author)
Dr. Mulat was born and grew up in a remote village called Kersole, South Wollo, Ethiopia to parents who never had the opportunity to learn how to read or to write. Drought happened often and frost frequently killed crops. His parents were determined their children would break the cycle of poverty through unlocking the power of education. With his mother’s strong encouragement, he excelled at school (and farming), becoming a role model to his brothers and sisters, earning advanced degrees in biology, environmental sanitation, and applied ecology. His parents, who never set foot in school, have seen all their children graduate with advanced degrees in physics, computer science, chemistry, and math. His diverse life experiences have taken him to Europe, Texas, and Washington State. Dr Mulat has a strong passion to pay back to his village and others around Ethiopia through promoting literacy, innovation, and education. Becoming a children’s book author for kids who too rarely get to see themselves in books and sharing the rich history and culture of his birth are just some of the ways he is paying it forward.

About Daniel Getahun (illustrator)
Daniel Getahun lives in Toronto, Canada. He received a diploma in graphic art from Addis Ababa School of Fine Arts and Design in 1980. He now focuses on oil painting and digital painting. Digital painting is an emerging art form in which traditional painting techniques (such as watercolor, oils, etc.) are applied by means of a computer, a digitizing tablet and stylus, and software. In digital painting, the artist uses painting techniques to create the image directly on the computer.

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Posted by community events coordinator, Nzinga Lonstein Austin, is a prolific blogger who writes on the entertainment industry and issues for people with developmental and physical challenges.

She is presently in high school looking to have a career in video, film, and media. You can see more of her entertainment writing on Lonstein Movies.

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