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Cape Town creatives team up for a book dash

Cape Town creatives aka writers, illustrators and designers will gather on Saturday, 28 June for the inaugural Book Dash, a volunteer-based project to create free children's books that anyone can translate, print and distribute.

To tackle children's book crisis

As the organisers explain, early childhood literacy is in crisis in South Africa, and those tackling it need lots of good, low cost books they can give to children. But when purchased from publishers, children's books are very expensive.

To tackle this problem, Book Dash gathers volunteers to create books that have no publisher, so that their only cost is printing, which anyone can sponsor.

"We believe every child should own a hundred books by the age of five," says Founder Arthur Attwell. "In South Africa, that means giving 600 million free books to children who could never afford to buy them. Every day we lose, more children grow up unable to read and write well." The Book Dash model is based largely on Pratham Books in India, which creates and distributes hundreds of thousands of children's books every year, mostly created by volunteers.

Imagine if we put millions of free children's books in supermarkets and clinics everywhere?

"With no strings attached, a sponsor can print 5,000 copies for as little as R50,000 - just R10 a copy," says Attwell.

On a Book Dash day, teams work fast to create print ready children's books in twelve hours. Asked how the volunteers can produce good books in a short time, Community Manager Tarryn-Anne Anderson explains:

"We only accept teams we believe have the talent and experience to pull this off. Then, they must work within guidelines we provide: those constraints help us avoid distractions on the day. And finally, we emphasise the need for preparation: before the event, each team's writer must prepare their story outline, and each illustrator must prepare character sketches. A Book Dash day is about finishing, assembling and polishing. We also provide experienced editors and experts to help the teams."

Printed copies of the best books created at the event will be given to children at Jireh Community Projects' child-care centre in Mitchells Plain on Madiba Day in July.

Volunteers, sponsors and literacy organisations can find more information on the Book Dash website.