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Bermuda author talks dreams and children’s literacy at Oxford summit

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Author Karen Franks (Photograph supplied)

In Oxford, Karen Franks will be speaking about three of the things that fuelled her as an author: dream-building, inclusion and diversity.

They all tie into Abigail’s Dream Adventures, the series of children’s books which led to her participation in the 2023 World Literacy Foundation Summit in England.

The author’s lead character, Abigail, has “mystical, magical dreams” in which she and her “dream pal” Pearl go on adventures that introduce them to children of different cultures and ethnicities.

“When I was a child, I would always go to my grandmother's house and read and look through the glossy pictures of National Geographic. I would keep it under her piano and I would leaf through these magazines and I would wish I was there,” Ms Franks said.

“I wished I could have jumped inside the book and been in these Amazonian and African villages and forests and jungles with these kids that had beautiful markings, beautiful paintings on their faces. I was just always invigorated by imagination.”

It’s how she started writing initially, as a child. The hobby drifted off as she reached adulthood and instead pursued a career in banking. On retiring from that profession she once again put her imagination to work and created Abigail.

Ms Franks’s agent, Robert Walker of New Phaze Media, said he’d initially been impressed by how “vibrant” Abigail was as a character.

“She had these dreams but then connected these dreams to reality. And when we talk about people who have gone on to become such great influencers in the world, when you look at their stories, a lot of them talk about how when they were kids they used to have these dreams about doing something impactful. Someone like a Walt Disney, for example, Steve Jobs – in their biographies they refer to how everything started with a dream.”

Ms Franks will likely discuss it all on Sunday when she takes centre stage at the summit. At the heart of her talk will be the importance of “building dreams through literacy; taking a child's imagination and transforming that into goals and into fulfilling their dreams”.

Author Karen Franks (with back to camera) speaks to students about her series of books, Abigail’s Dream Adventures (Photograph supplied)

As described on its website, the World Literacy Foundation is a global non-profit organisation focused on ensuring that every child “has the opportunity to acquire literacy skills and books to reach their full potential” no matter where in the world they are born.

Bermuda author Karen Franks will speak at the World Literacy Foundation Summit on Sunday (Photograph supplied)

The summit was started in 2003 and is held twice a year. It is attended by leaders from 85 countries, all of whom have “a single focus [of] advocating, championing and educating” on improving literacy levels around the globe. As part of that, it has a defined goal of eradicating illiteracy by 2040.

Ms Franks was invited to join next week’s summit, which runs April 2 to 4, because she shared that vision.

“Kids' imaginations are ignited by the pictures in the books because the books’ pictures, the illustrations, are so vivid,” Ms Franks said of her series. “And that's what it's about. It's about eradicating illiteracy and so if we can get kids excited about dreaming – and we do that through reading and drawing and their imagination and creating characters from the books that they read – then we can simulate them.”

Such efforts are especially timely now, when young students have had their lives disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, she added.

“Kids are going through anxiety, depression and stress and this is another way of igniting their interest back into reading. Because of Covid, the whole paradigm of how we used to do things has changed. And I believe, as I speak to people that are in the literacy world and in the children's animation world, there's been a learning loss, there's been a gap and kids are not at the same point as kids a generation ago would have been at.

“There's going to be a lot of anxiety and so I think getting back to basics and exciting children to read is important and how we do it is important. And we do it through storytelling; we do it through putting programming in place, putting initiatives together.”

Buy Abigails Dream Adventures at LF Wade International Airport and abigailsdreamadventures.com. For more information on the World Literacy Foundation Summit visit worldliteracyfoundation.org/world-literacy-summit/

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Published March 27, 2023 at 8:00 am (Updated March 28, 2023 at 10:16 am)

Bermuda author talks dreams and children’s literacy at Oxford summit

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