Who considers television boring? Farida! As a genuine bookworm Farida would rather get lost in books than watch television. Today, she is living the life of her dreams, working in a bookstore and helping others to love reading. Enjoy our interview with her.
Hello Farida. Can you please tell us a bit about yourself?
Hi. My name is Farida Ladipo-Ajayi. I am married and have 2 boys age 5 and 1 respectively. I am the founder of The Bookworm Café. The Bookworm Café is a children’s reading club that motivates kids to be readers who aspire to change the world because of the impact that books have made in their lives. Our main focus in all our reading clubs is to bring fun and reading together so that children who see reading as boring are inspired to read for pleasure. In addition to our clubs, we run a virtual library where we loan books to kids. We also have an online bookstore where we sell only titles that we pick because of the impact they will make in the children’s lives.
What inspired you to start The Book Worm Café?
I have always loved to read. Growing up, I considered TV boring and would rather get lost in a book. I used to read any and everything at my disposal even my Father’s MBA books. For me, the ideal life was working in a bookstore or library (as seen on TV) where I could read for a living. I knew I wanted to raise my kids to be readers. I bet anyone who loves to read will want to raise kids who read. When I was pregnant with my first child, I researched ways to raise kids who loved to read and consistently everyone said read out loud to your kids. When he was born I started reading to him bit by bit from about 3 months old. This experience was actually like a training. I learnt how to choose books for kids, how to have a book discussion with children in a way that does not make it feel like a quiz, how to read to kids, how to extract fun activities from books and so much more. In 2016 I applied for the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship program and I filled in what was an idea at the time, starting a book club/library for kids. To my surprise, my idea was picked and the mentorship and funding I received from the program led me to bring this idea to life.
Can you take us through some of the things you do at The Bookworm Café?
My typical day is very busy because on a daily basis I get questions from parents and teachers about what kinds of books their kids should be reading and tips for getting kids to read. I find myself hand-picking books for kids. Obviously, this means I need to read a lot for me to able to recommend a book to a child. My typical day also includes developing creative and fun ways to get kids to read in our reading clubs. I come up with activities, themes and book lists that we use in all our reading clubs. Thankfully I have an operations manager who helps me with the administrative side of things and some technical bit as well. She is a blessing.
Why is it important for children to imbibe good reading habits from an early age?
I think it is super important for kids to imbibe good reading habits from an early age because using myself as an example, majority of the things I knew while I was growing up was not taught to me in school. I read far and wide and this helped me to be outstanding academically. Also, a good reading habit takes discipline and that discipline in kids goes a long way in helping them to choose between wrong and right. You find that children who read a lot, because they love to read not because they are forced to read are usually very well behaved and very smart.
With the growth in technology, more kids prefer to play games on iPads and phones than reading books. What do you think can be done to change this?
I will be very honest here. Ipads, games, gadgets and so on tend to be much more appealing to anybody than books. So it’s no surprise that kids find it difficult to choose books over devices and media. It’s difficult to make that choice even for an adult. I always encourage parents to start very early to build a reading culture in their homes. Read to your children from when they are very young, model a good reading life as parents, fill your house with good books and limit the distraction, have set times for reading every day, have gadget-free times, have a corner for books in your car, discuss books with your children. All these help to change this trend towards media and gadgets.
What role do parents play in ensuring that their children love to read?
Parents play a very vital role in ensuring that their children love to read. Parents need to model a healthy reading life for their kids to see. Kids copy their parents a lot, so when your child sees the level of importance you place on books, they are likely to copy that. Parents who buy books for their children not because the school says they should buy books but because they genuinely want to raise kids who read, those parents are showing their children that books are important. Parents who read to their children also show their kids that they think books are important.
You provide books for parents to either buy or rent. How has this service been received?
When I started, my plan was to run reading clubs and kids would be allowed to borrow books. I got a lot of requests from parents who wanted to buy instead of rent as their kids loved our books so we included a bookstore into our offering. The renting option was new at the time and our parents received it very well because it saves them thousands of Naira monthly.
What are your future plans for The Bookworm Café?
We have a lot of plans in the pipeline that are just plans for now and nothing concrete but in the next two years we want to start publishing very good homegrown children’s books written by Africans and about Africans. We want to celebrate and encourage our own and bring their work out there especially children writers.
Are there any challenges you faced when you started? How were you able to overcome them?
The Tony Elumelu Foundation program gave me a good start and helped me overcome most of the challenges common to starting up. Our major challenge really has been managing our library offering. We have suffered major losses from that part of the business because sometimes the books are not returned at all or they are returned in very poor condition and we have to dispose them. As much as we did not want to, we have had to introduce a refundable deposit which our members bear for incidents like these.
If you could only make one choice, which book will you choose as the best you have ever read?
Charlotte’s Web by E.B.White anytime any day. It’s a sad book, it made me cry but it also made me laugh the hardest I’ve ever laughed because of a book. Whenever I recommend books for kids from age eight upwards I’m likely to throw in that book because it’s a powerful book that every library should have.
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