The title of Kari-Lynn Winters’ latest children’s book, Gift Days, is a poignant one.
Launched in early November at Brock’s Hamilton campus, Gift Days is about a young African girl, Nassali, who dreams of an education. But after the death of her mother, Nassali must take care of the household and raise her younger siblings. That rules out school until her brother gives her the gift of time — days off housework duty — to pursue her dream.
Thanks to money raised at the Gift Days launch through book sales and donations, 10 Ugandan girls will be receive a gift similar to Nassali’s. They’ll be able to attend school for a full year.
In total, $260 was raised for the charity Because I am a Girl, which aims to better the opportunities of girls and women throughout the world.
“It was beyond my expectations,” Winters said about money raised. “We are all super excited to be giving gift days to these girls.”
It was a course in multimodal literacies, specifically African literacies, while Winters was completing her PhD that inspired the 32-page picture book.
“The one thing that kept coming up was that at the end of a long day, the males in Uganda were able to sit under the jackfruit tree and talk to each other and the females never got this opportunity,” she said about how the story began to take shape. “The girls do so much work they aren’t often able to go to school and that’s where the story stemmed from.”
Supervising editor Christie Harkin of Fitzhenry and Whiteside Publishers was struck by the story the first time she read Winters’ manuscript.
“It was really moving,” Harkin said. “It wasn’t preachy. It’s the story of a girl and even though she’s a universal character, she’s still just one girl.”
Harkin says the publishing company hopes to make its picture book line about global citizenship awareness and Winters’ book helps achieve that.
“When she came with her book, it was really good. She did a lot of research and made sure she knew her topic,” Harkin said.
Winters spent nearly a year doing research for the book, ensuring she was accurate in her storytelling right down to the smallest of details. Ugandan scholars also vetted it for accuracy.
“Their input was not only helpful, it was crucial for cultural accuracy,” Winters said.
She was also grateful to her team of editors and Toronto illustrator Stephen Taylor for helping put the book together.
Although it’s children’s picture book, Winters said the universal story knows no age.
“You can use for this book for a Grade 2-3 classroom, but if you want to delve into more sophisticated issues, such as children’s rights, critical literacies, equity or health education, it can be used in high school or adult education classes as well,” she explained. “I knew I wanted to have it access a wide range. A lot of people don’t know about sophisticated picture books.”