Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Here I am again!

State and Commercial Publishing in Children’s Material in the Caribbean

My previous post, ages ago it seems, … and it is, because it’s even longer ago than the draft of this was written. I wish I could say I was WRITING, but I wasn’t. I just got caught up in things, as I sometimes do.

So the last post showed wonderful artwork produced by the Ministry of Education on the Literacy 1-2-3 Project. This is a literacy/reading series for grades 1-3. Yes, state publishing. This is a very emotional topic. However I don’t see that there needs to be a confrontational position between commercial publishing and state publishing. I have worked in both areas, and each does its best to fulfill the needs of the market.

For small developing states, giving their school children books free of cost can be challenging. So they often welcome the funding for book production by oversees agencies. Every now and then, in Jamaica there have been such projects. This always distresses our local publishers, but often the outlay required for these projects is not something that a publishing house can provide without a definite agreement for purchase. And it is the nature of governments that all goods and services must be tendered for. Having said that, I cannot imagine why we cannot develop contracts which allow both private sector and the state to share in materials production . For indeed, the main challenge that the state faces is that having published books under a project, it often does not have the funds to keep the books in print.

I am the product of one of the first major state run projects for the production of books, the Doctor Bird Reading Series; some thirty books, supplementary readers, which many years later are still being used in the schools, and are now in colour. Three writers and some fifteen artists worked on these. The writers became authors and some of the artists became famous. And for a generation of children these books have been the only books they saw which were relevant to their lives and themselves. A most significant point!

On Literacy 1-2 –3, we, because I was the publishing manager on that project, have produced some beautiful work. We had excellent writers, some already authors in their own right, others discovered/uncovered by the project, so to speak. Beautiful artwork was produced as you have seen, and will see in future posts. So projects like this foster local talent. It would be a pity to let such wonderful work eventually whither away. That is the real problem! What is the real solution?

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