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Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Publisher of Popular Ethiopian Children’s Books Continues to Garner International Recognition

Ethiopian children reading OHBD books

NationwideOpen Hearts Big Dreams (OHBD) and the Ethiopian Section of the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY Ethiopia) are elated to announce that two of the OHBD Ready Set Go Books (OHBD-RSG) were honored at the 29th Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 2023 in Riyahd, Saudi Arabia. Friends Forever: A Tale of Two Fruits by Yoseph Ayalew was listed as third in “Best Food Books for Children—Africa” and third in “Best Fruit Books in the World.” And Thank You, Cow: The Origin of Some of Ethiopia’s Best Foods, written by Mastewal Abera and illustrated by Abel Tekleyes, was listed as fourth in “Best Dairy & Cheese Books in the World.” This now makes four books published by OHBD-RSG that have been awarded similar honors.

Founded in 1995, the Gourmand Awards are selected each year from over 100,000 publications from 230 countries/regions around the world. The awards have been compared to film’s Oscars.

OHBD Executive Director Ellenore Angelidis noted the impact of this recognition by stating, “We once again offer our gratitude to the Gourmand Awards for recognizing our OHBD-RSG books. What is particularly noteworthy with this set of awards is that both authors and one of the illustrators were based in Ethiopia when they created these titles, a critical step toward building local capacity, which is an important goal for OHBD and one of the reasons we sponsored the launch of IBBY Ethiopia. Also, most of our content creators donate their talents, so this type of international recognition is a priceless gift.”

In addition to writing and doing translation for OHBD, Yoseph Ayalew is a Project Manager for the NGO, leading the printing and distribution of OHBD-RSG books in Ethiopia, and also one of the official leaders of IBBY Ethiopia. Yoseph has written various children’s books in Amharic, English, and Anuak and has also been a teacher for two decades in elementary and middle school. Yoseph commented on how much this recognition means to him by noting, “I believe that writing a children’s book is the most difficult thing in the world. But thanks to the editors, creative team, and illustrator, I am now an award-winning author. Receiving two honors for the same book is like fulfilling a lifelong goal. The book encourages children to view all others as equals no matter their differences.”

Mastewal Abera is an Ethiopian children’s book author who is dedicated to promoting child literacy through bilingual picture books. As an Ethiopian author, she brings a unique perspective to her work that is sure to resonate with young readers from diverse backgrounds. By providing young readers with stories that reflect their own lives and cultures, she hopes to foster a love of reading that will stay with them for a lifetime. In addition to promoting literacy, Mastewal’s books also offer a window into the rich cultural traditions of Ethiopia.

Abel Tekleyes is a gifted young artist from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Although he began as a young boy who loved to draw cartoons, his portfolio has come to be filled with a diverse array of media, including printmaking, sculpture, paintings, and other forms of visual art. Tekleyes notes, “I would like to express my appreciation for the award. My inspiration for art started when I was very young, even before I could read and write. As any child nowadays, I grew up watching cartoons; which sparked a desire in me to draw the characters. Gradually, I would use the cartoon characters I was familiar with to come up with new comics from my imagination.”

The OHBD-RSG Books program publishes culturally appropriate bilingual books and distributes them to readers in Ethiopia and around the world. The rapidly growing list includes over 160 books in nineteen languages, with more than 360,000 books printed and distributed in Ethiopia through OHBD’s local printing pilot and collaborations. Both of these award-winning titles are also part of the OHBD-RSG inclusion series, the “Mike Carr Legacy Project.” As the website states, “The goal of the legacy project is to increase awareness of the educational disparities of Ethiopian children with disabilities and to increase educational opportunities for these children so they can become the role models of the future that Mike Carr was during his lifetime.”

OHBD is a Seattle-based, not-for-profit organization that is dedicated to increasing literacy, inclusion, innovation readiness, and leadership skills in Ethiopia and beyond. The organization sponsored the launch of IBBY Ethiopia as a new National Section of IBBY, joining in July 2023. IBBY is a non-profit organization that represents an international network of people from all over the world who are committed to bringing books and children together. Tens of millions of Ethiopians—half the population—lack literacy skills. There are seventy to ninety first languages spoken and a lack of culturally appropriate children’s books in the local languages. The Ethiopian National Section of IBBY will build on the limited but growing activities focused on increasing access to quality books and creating a love of reading. Visit the official website at OpenHeartsBigDreams.org

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For press inquiries, contact 425-295-8841 or ellenore@openheartsbigdreams.org