February 28th, 2024

New author sharing her culture in children’s book


By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on November 23, 2023.

Herald photo by Alejandra Pulido-Guzman Jessie Acquah, author of "What Day Were You Born?" answers the question in her book by sharing part of her Ghanaian culture.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDapulido@lethbridgeherald.com

A new author is sharing a piece of her culture in a children’s book that was inspired by a question asked by her daughter’s kindergarten teacher at a local elementary school.

 When people first meet, they ask questions to get to know each other and sometimes one of those questions is when their birthday is.

Usually the answer involves a date on a calendar year, but not very often people answer that question including the day of the week they were born, mostly because most people are unaware of the specific day or time they were born, unless they are born in Ghana, West Africa.

 Jessie Acquah, author of “What Day Were You Born?” spoke to the Herald recently about her new book and explained that it all started with a simple question from her daughter’s kindergarten teacher, Laurie McIntosh prior to her daughter’s first day of school at The Children of St. Martha Elementary School.

 Acquah said that while trying to get to know her new student better, McIntosh asked when her birthday was, unaware of the cultural significance of the question in relation to the day someone is born in Ghana, West Africa.

 “When you’re born you are given a name based on the day of the week you are born. I call my daughter by her born name, but I don’t think she is aware of that. So when Mrs. McIntosh asked, I took the opportunity to share that with her as I thought it was a unique piece of our traditions that not a lot of people know about,” said Acquah.

 She said that interaction sparked another question – how to help her children become aware of their Ghanaian cultural traditions while being raised in Canada.

 “I always wanted to have something as a resource to teach her so a book has always been in the back of my mind. I talked about this with Mrs. McIntosh, who without hesitation said to me ‘write one!’ So, I went home and thought about it and started that same night,” said Acquah.

Acquah said that evening while waiting for her daughter to fall asleep at bedtime, she grabbed her phone and started typing away while her ideas were fresh and her courage strong.

 “This happened in September, just a few months ago. My daughter just started kindergarten and now I have a book,” said Acquah in shock.

 She said she was able to get the book together quickly because it is a children’s book, with not many words in it and it conveys a simple message, but with big hopes of sparking interest in learning more about not only Ghanian culture, but other cultures as well.

 Acquah said she hopes her book inspires people from other cultures to write about them and to share unique things about their culture, especially with children who are at an age when curiosity runs high, and they are like little sponges of knowledge.

 “I really just wanted to memorialize this for my children and anyone who is interested in learning about other cultures,” said Acquah.

 She said a big part of wanting to share a piece of her culture in her book is to help children who could identify with it to feel accepted, included and represented.

 “What Day Were You Born?” Is written from Acquah’s five-year-old daughter point of view.

Arielah who was born in Canada, shares what she has learned so far about her culture, including the different names her family members have based on the day they were born, and why is important for her to learn more about her background.

 “I’m learning lots of things about my Canadian heritage as I go to school and play with friends. Mom and Dad teach me about being Ghanaian so I can share with my friends too. There are so many beautifully unique things about me!” reads one of the pages.

 At the end of the book, Acquah shares a list of names based on their respective day of the week, as well as pronunciation. She also shares unique activities for children to do to encourage others to learn what their Ghanian name would be based on the day they are born, no matter where they are from.

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