Illustrating Liberian Books for Liberian Children
I grew up in Liberia while my country was at war. My sister and I attended school, afraid that we would have to suddenly flee, never knowing if the conflict would force our school to close.
Many did. And now, almost an entire generation is illiterate.
Sitting under a tree, I would draw stories in the dirt. This was my way of bringing my ideas to life and expressing myself.
I would draw to escape my reality – much like reading a book – but there were no books around. There was nothing to do but wait for the war to stop and for the situation to improve.
I discovered from those stories that I drew in the dirt that I had a natural talent as a children’s book illustrator. My career has continued to evolve, and now I’m also working as a graphic designer and photographer!
When I met CODE‘s Liberian partner, the WE-CARE Foundation, I was given the opportunity to illustrate four books with vibrant images that reflect Liberian culture. Seeing the first copies of the finished books was amazing. My little sister was so proud of me and what I had accomplished that she brought them to school one day, bragging about them to her friends.
My Turn to Give Back
My work as an illustrator is so meaningful to me. Drawing stories in the dirt allowed me to escape during a very difficult time in my country’s history. Now I hope the books I’ve illustrated not only get children interested in reading, but also provide adventure and joy.
When I have the chance to do something that gives back – I take it. So I was delighted when I was asked to travel to neighbouring Sierra Leone with CODE to help local illustrators create books just like the ones I worked on. It was wonderful to see how eager and talented the illustrators were. They saw the books I worked on and said ‘if you can do this, so can we!’ It was one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever done.
Story by Chase Walker, Children’s Book Illustrator, Graphic Designer, Photographer. Originally published on codecan.org.
CODE is a Canadian non-profit organization with over 55 years of experience in the literacy and education space. CODE works tirelessly to ensure a supply of locally-produced, engaging and culturally-relevant books for children and youth, so that they can develop their love of reading, while preparing themselves for a brighter future through education.
In addition to training local authors, illustrators and publishers, CODE works closely with local teachers, school administrators and librarians to give them the skills, knowledge and confidence to effectively guide children in learning to read, write and think critically about the world around them. CODE works in Africa, Canada and the Caribbean.