Ndidi Enenmor :‘I have no regrets being a writer’
“I simply love writing, especially for children. I derive a lot of pleasure from it,” begins Ndidi Enenmor. “It is so easy for me to churn up ideas and develop them into stories that children can read so it is both a hobby and career,” continues the writer who holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in library science and English from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
Enenmor worked at the British Council where she anchored programmes designed to improve children’s reading habits for four years and was spurred to take up writing for children from the experience. “I discovered that children actually love reading and I saw a lot of enthusiasm in them. Seeing their enthusiasm, I decided to put my thoughts into writing.”
Adding value to children
The mother of three discloses that her objective is to add value to the lives of children. Three of her books cover a range of health-related issues. Her debut publication, ‘I Will Always Eat My Food’, emphasises the need for children to cultivate healthy eating habits while ‘One Little Mosquito’ is about malaria and how children can protect themselves from it. ‘My Fruits, My Alphabet’ stresses the importance of fruits to a child’s growth. The book for beginning readers was published earlier this month along with a fourth, ‘Stories of Our Land’.
‘Stories of Our Land’ promotes Nigeria’s cultures by touching on the folklore of the various tribes. She notes that folklore is important in the education of children and intends to cover all the tribes in Nigeria. “We have more than 250 tribes in Nigeria. My aim is to cover the entire tribes.”
Enenmor, whose ‘One Little Mosquito’ was published in 2008 and won the Association of Nigerian Authors/Atiku Abubakar Prize for Children’s Literature, is not happy with the poor reading habits of children and intends to do something about this with her writings. She blames the problem on advances in technology which makes children spend more time watching movies, playing video games and surfing the internet than reading. She further notes that parents who do not buy books outside recommended texts for their children are not helping matters.
Through her DDL Marketing and Consultancy Services Limited, Enenmor has created avenues where children are helped to develop good reading habits. One of such initiatives is the outfit’s annual children’s book week. The programme engages students in quizzes and debates to “develop their literary instincts and brush them up for public speaking.”
Since its inception in 2006, the book week has benefitted well over 10,000 children in upper primary and junior secondary schools. Though sponsorship is an issue, she is not concerned. “We want to partner with corporate bodies to see to the establishments of libraries in the community,” she discloses. Establishing mobile libraries is a venture Enenmor also wants to undertake and aside from partnering with schools, she also wants to partner with booksellers, corporate organisations and the government to supply books to libraries. She aims “to reach communities where libraries are unavailable or non functional.”
Learning outside the classroom
Enenmor believes that all-round education involves more than learning inside the classroom so she uses her company to help children learn outside the classroom. She liaises with schools and parents to organise excursions for children to places within and outside Nigeria.
The writer also reiterates the importance of writing, noting that it is a skill children will find useful in having a rounded education.
“The fact that children are always looking up to me and see me as a model keeps me going,” she says of her inspiration.
Reading to improve
She is however saddened by the infelicities that litter books for children and warns aspiring writers against making the same mistakes. “It is not everybody that can write for children. You have to bring your grammar down to their level,” she notes, adding that aspiring writers have to edit their work thoroughly before publishing.
She suggests reading as the perfect way for an aspiring writer to improve his/her writing skills. “If one is a writer, you have to be a reader too.”
Enenmor is inspired by her children. “My first daughter was a very picky eater so she gave me the idea for the first novel. In subsequent books that I have written, my children are my first editors and critics. They ginger me to write.” The writer also admires matriarch of Nigerian literature, the award-winning Mabel Segun.
She says her writing career “has been interesting because everywhere I go, my books are accepted.” She adds that people did not initially understand her choice of career but did later, with time. “People say you can’t be a full-time writer in Nigeria because they feel you can’t make money from it,” but the enterprising author is not bothered because she does not do it for the money. “I have no regrets about being a writer because it is very fulfilling.”
Enenmor notes that with initiatives like President Goodluck Jonathan’s Bring Back the Book campaign and other interventions, reading will soon blossom in children and adults.