From its humble beginnings, working with rural communities on Bonny Island, the Rainbow Book Club’s reading campaign has taken giant strides, culminating in producing the first World Book Capital in Sub Saharan Africa – Port Harcourt. Koko Kalango, Founder of the Club and Festival Director of the annual Garden City Literary Festival, enumerated these milestones to President Goodluck Jonathan, as she formally presented the President with the book ‘Nigerian Literature: A Coat of Many Colours’ at the Aso Rock Villa in Abuja on Thursday 31st January 2013. The book, which is a pictorial anthology of 50 Nigerian writers; the first of its kind in the country, was compiled and edited by Kalango and the forward was written by the President himself.
While commending the present administration’s strides in the education sector, Mrs. Kalango pointed out the significance of the PH World Book Capital programme as well as the opportunity the win presents not just for the host city but for the nation. She cited the words of the UNESCO WBC Selection Committee “The city of Port Harcourt (Nigeria) was nominated as World Book Capital 2014 on account of the quality of its programme, in particular its focus on youth, and the impact it would have on improving Nigeria’s culture of books, reading, writing and publishing to improve literacy rates.”
Every year, following a competitive bid, UNESCO designates a city World Book Capital in ‘acknowledgement of the best programme dedicated to books and reading.’
The Port Harcourt bid, put together by the Rainbow Book Club, beat 10 other contending cities, including Oxford, to become the 14 World Book Capital. In line with the practice, PH would hold the title for one year, from April 23 (i.e. World Book and Copyright Day) 2014.
Mrs. Kalango also intimated the President of the book club’s plan to publish an expanded version of the book featuring 100 authors, to mark Nigeria at 100, in 2014.
In response, the President pledged to support the city of PH’s efforts towards a successful World Book Capital year as well as to support the expansion of the pictorial anthology as these were befitting commemorations of Nigeria’s centenary. He thanked and commended Mrs. Kalango for her sacrifice and labour to bring development to the country through reading.
The delegation on this visit included trustees and patrons of the Rainbow Book Club – Mrs. Judy Nwanodi, Mr. Lindsay Barrett, Mr. Aranyam Kalango, Mr. Iso Bassey, Rev. Dr W.D.C. Wokoma, Hon. Dr. Wale Okediran and Ms Adaobi Nwaubani.