“We cannot only depend on what we learn in school to survive in this world, that is why we need to read books,” Says the book revolutionist Dorcas Fafali Tsey. In her quest to promote the reading culture in Ghana, she launched “A lady who loves to read” 2 years ago and this year, she has blown our minds with one of the most outstanding books initiative in Ghana, called OKABRY, an initiative that brings books to your doorstep by helping you borrow books at affordable prices. Today, MoniqueFriday meets this upcoming generational changer as she shares great insights with us, particularly on how to establish the reading culture amongst children in Ghana.
MFy: It’s good to have you here finally Dorcas. Please tell us about yourself.
DFT: My name is Dorcas Fafali Tsey. I am the 4th child of my parents amongst 5 siblings: 2 sisters and 2 brothers. My mum is late, unfortunately. My dad is 72 years of age and he is a mathematician and a retired teacher. I hold Bsc in Telecommunications Engineering degree from KNUST and I work with an ICT company.
MFy: I’ve wanted to ask you this for a long time. Your enthusiasm for books is so evident and even all over social media, you talk a lot about books. Tell us, how did you develop your love for reading?
DFT: My dad made books a normal culture in our home when I was growing up as a child. My earliest childhood memory on it was when he bought books for us and when you finished reading you’d get the opportunity to watch the movie version so that everything sticks. I also remember he took us to book fairs which helped develop our interest for books.
MFy: Looking at how passionate you are about books, how much have you spent so far this year on books?
DFT: Eermm I’ve spent close to 3000ghc on books only, though it’s not even the end of the year.
MFy: 3000ghc on books only? That’s incredible. Now let’s talk about the latest library in town– OKABRY. What is okabry?.
DFT: OKABRY is an initiative under a “lady who loves to read.” “A lady who loves to read” is an NGO that aims to promote the reading culture in Ghana. One of the things we’ve been doing so far is the BOOK EXCHANGE AFFAIR, an event that brings book lovers together to network and exchange books and now we’ve launched another NGO under “A lady who loves to read” called Okabry.
Okabry is a mobile library service or a courier library service. What it aims to do is to save the struggle of coming all the way to a particular destination to pick books. We do not have so many libraries like we have restaurants in town where everywhere you turn you can pick books. So this is just a means of bringing the library to your doorstep- making books accessible to people despite their busy schedules.
MFy: Wow. It is said, “If you want to hide something from a black man, put it in a book.” Do you agree with that assumption, that Africans do not like reading?
DFT: I honestly do not agree with that assumption but I do not blame the one who said it. I grew up with parents who loved reading and I used to have access to the Cape Coast regional library. Anytime I went there, I met a whole lot of people- children and adults reading. You know at first, our culture made it look like you were not supposed to be alone when you are in the midst of other people so you looked weird when you were with a book at a corner reading in a public place which I believe at the time, made it difficult to make people flaunt books as they should have. It created the impression that “Okay, Africans do not like reading,” but we do. Africans love reading. The only thing is we don’t seem to flaunt the fact that we love reading.
MFy: Interesting. As a book lover and someone who champions the need for reading, what do you think we can do as a nation to increase the interest in reading especially among children?
DFT: Each time I meet my friends who have kids, I ask them “Have you bought them books?” “Are you reading to them?” “Are you reading yourself?” Because if a child doesn’t see mummy and daddy reading, it will be difficult for them to develop that habit to read. I normally recommend to my friends who are parents and are very busy to start the child up with a reading process at a very young age. They can record a 5 minute video of themselves reading a book aloud and have their caretakers play to the kids while they are busy or at work. With this even before the child gets to age one, the child has seen so many videos of you holding a book which will help them develop the habit of reading.
Again, I will also encourage adults and parents that when we come around kids, one of our question to them should be “what are you reading?” instead of buying only toys for our kids, friend’s child or niece on their birthdays, we can buy them a set of Ananse story collection and Peggy Oppong’s books for children. If we want our children to have wide imaginations and be open-minded, the best place to start is through reading.
MFy: Thank you. Please share with us, what are some of the real obstacles you face doing what you do?
DFT: Oh my God it’s been challenging. One of our challenges has been how to reduce cost. It’s been difficult having access to affordable courier services in Ghana that will deliver at very low cost which would have reduced the price we charge. Again, as a worker with the usual 8am-5pm job, it’s been a challenge balancing my social life with work life and Okabry. I stay up, try to arrange books, respond to people’s request and sometimes I miss out on weddings of very good friends, but I’m happy that I have friends, sisters, mentors and spiritual fathers who have been supportive.
MFy: What is the vision of Okabry?
DFT:. Our vision is to make everyone read. To make books accessible to everyone all over the country. In the future we should have mini Okabry’s scattered all over so that when you walk into a restaurant, there are 10 books on a shelf there where you can read while eating. You would walk to a trotro and see stack of books at the window that you can assess. So our motto is you borrow a book and you get to keep the knowledge.
MFy: MoniqueFriday would like to commend this great work you are doing in Ghana. What advice would you give to people, especially women, who have great ideas that could help transform the society but are afraid to start for fear of failing?
DFT: For the past 3 years, I realized there were so many ideas that came to mind but I was afraid to initiate them for the fear of failing. I asked myself why I should invest my money into something when it might not be patronized and will fail because family and friends might not even support. But this year one of my personal resolutions has been: “Risk it, Try it, if it fails what do you lose? You learn a huge lesson”. I have had initiatives that didn’t survive. After 2 months it dropped off the radar but these are not failures, these are what I call lessons. So be willing to put yourself out there to learn. If you do not learn, how will you survive? My source of inspiration is God and I know because I am in Him, I am not limited. So hey young person out there, old person out there, don’t be afraid to dream. Life is full of so many possibilities. Don’t limit yourself. Read about the venture you want to pursue and don’t neglect your Bible.
MFy: Great advice. Thank you so much Dorcas. But hey, we won’t let you go without recommending some books.
DFT: Hehehe. Okay so let me recommend 5 books you need to read for the last part of the year.
1. Redeeming love by Francine Rrivers.
2.The smart money woman.
3 Unashamed by Lecrae.
4.In the grip of grace by Max lucado and
5. Unforgettable by Nesta Jojoe Erskine
These are great books everyone should read.
And that’s the end of today’s segment. OKABRY is in Accra and KNUST campus as well. Don’t forget to place your orders.
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