I have decided to write this article about a wonderful project I and many of the students at Surbiton High School are involved in. The Akenkan Project aims to write, illustrate and professionally print reading books to send to schools in Ghana located in the Akwapim Hills. English is the language used in education in Ghana, so students must read and write in English to progress to Secondary School. The founder of Akenkan, Suzy Pett, a teacher at Surbiton High School, said that ‘I first came up with the idea of writing books specifically aimed at Ghanaian children after having spent time teaching in a rural Ghanaian primary school. The school had few resources and reading was treated more as a chore and a ‘chanting-exercise’ than as something that is fun and enjoyable to do.’ Nana Osei Tutu, a teacher in Ghana who helped develop and implement the project, commented that ‘my research as a teacher and a student show that pupils performed poorly both in reading and English exams, so having Suzy visit Ghana, I thought it wise that an organisation such as Akenkan could be set up to help raise the standard of English in the various schools in Akwapim ridge and Ghana as whole, so with Suzy`s help Akenkan was set up.’ The Akenkan project aims to increase literacy in a fun way.

The books are unique because they are aimed at a community in Ghana. Suzy Pett commented that ‘I did a bit of research, and found that there are lots of charities who ship over old reading books to countries in the developing world, and there are also series designed for the general ‘African’ child. However, I wanted to develop high quality, professional series of books which were specifically aimed at a community in Ghana.’ Particularly useful is a glossary at the back of each book which translates key English words into Twi, the language spoken by the community in the Akwapim Hills. Also, the title Akenkan means ‘Read Along’ in Twi.

The books are created in close collaboration with teachers in Ghana, as Suzy Pett thought this was very important for the development of the project, ‘I went back to Ghana and talked to teachers in a rural primary school. They all really like the idea and wanted to be involved. As a teacher, I thought getting talented pupils involved in the writing and illustrating of the books was the best way forward. This way, education is working two ways: pupils in Ghana receive free, beautifully written and illustrated story books, and pupils in England learn all about another culture and way of life. The Ghanaian teachers involved in Akenkan advise us on aspects of the stories and books to make them the most appropriate.’ Through dedicated fundraising carried out by the team and members of Surbiton High School, The Akenkan Project raised enough money to have the first book published. I wrote this book and it is beautifully illustrated in bright colours by Inji Kang. “I am Koti!” is a book aimed at beginner readers in Ghana. It follows Kojo, a little boy lost in the deep, dark forest. There he meets Koti, a loveable and cheerful talking monkey, who takes him on a wonderful adventure. At the back of the book there are fun quizzes and activities to consolidate learning. This book will be on sale at Waterstones in Kingston, the Regency Book shop in Surbiton and at the Surbiton High Christmas Fair, which takes place on the 3rd of December. The money raised will go towards printing another five books which are at a range of different reading levels. In the summer of 2012, members of the Akenkan project will take the books published to Ghana and deliver them to the schools.

Visit http://www.akenkan.org/ to find out more.