Debut author Lorraine O’Garro has decided to help us teach the ABCs with ease thanks to her delightful children’s book, The Alphabet With Bella the first in The Bella Series of books for children aged 2-5 years.
The series follows Bella Sweeney a 4-year old Black-British girl of Caribbean heritage as she guides the reader through her multi-cultural alphabet, holding their hand through the learning experience, and making it lots of fun in the process.
O’Garro is a qualified accountant and the founder of new menswear brand Hashtag Collective. She is also a mentor with the Urban Synergy Group and sits on the board of the educational social enterprise, Rivers Coaching. Like Bella, she lives in north London.
We caught up with this budding new author to find out more about her books…
What was the motivation which inspired you to publish, The Alphabet With Bella?
Ten years ago, I was reminiscing about childhood books and it struck me that many of the books I learned to read with were no longer in circulation and further, those that were still available weren’t representative of the multicultural communities we live in today. Enter Bella.
Why was it important to you?
I value the power of education and believe learning can be and should be fun. It was important to me to be able to have more books available for children that represented a black character and culture and with a black lead character.
Were you an avid reader during your childhood years?
I used to read a fair amount as a child. My mum and dad used to encourage reading at home, so there were always lots of books around.
Can you remember which books had the most influence on you as a child and why?
In terms of early childhood, the Peter and Jane series was a staple book series for me when learning to read and the Roger Red Hat and Jennifer Yellow Hat series’.
When did you realise you had the talent for writing? Was it always your intention to become a writer, and more so a writer of children’s books?
I’ve tutored young children over the years, so I’ve always been involved in aiding education in some way; I was drawn to writing to fill a much needed void.
What was your process from getting the idea to getting published?
My first concern was finding the right illustrator. It was vital that I had strong, bold imagery that would bring out my vision. I searched high and low for the right illustrator and it was my cousin who finally pointed me in the direction of Katlego, a South African Illustrator. She immediately understood the essence of the character Bella and was able to bring my vision to life! In terms of publishing, I knew I wanted to self-publish, so I set about looking for a publisher that would meet my needs and understand what I wanted to achieve. After many a search on the Internet, I came across Authoright, a London based publishing house who were able to support my project.
Where did you go for advice, who supported you on this journey?
I had a very clear idea of what my book would be like, so I kept my support network small, limited to my immediate family, husband and a couple of my cousins. I value their opinion and they helped me shape my ideas as they formed. They also had a lot of patience with me also, it has taken ten years after all!
Who did you have in mind whilst writing this book?
My focus was always young children. I wanted young African and Caribbean children to have a black character like them, representing parts of their culture that they may not otherwise see in many other books. I was also keen to encourage children from other backgrounds to read a book like this, as a way to introduce new concepts into their world from a young age. For example, in the book, “P is for plantain” often sparks discussions in the home – Is it a banana? What is a plantain? I wanted to start these discussions in the home from an early age, to broaden cultural awareness and curiosity.
What are your plans for this series?
The Alphabet with Bella is just the first in the series. I am currently working on an audio version of the book and Numbers with Bella is already in the pipeline. Bella will take her readers on a journey from assisted reading with their parents, through to independent reading.
What else do you outside of writing?
I’m an accountant by day and run an online menswear brand, Hashtag Collective, with my husband.
I sit on the board of Rivers Coaching, a social enterprise that raises the aspirations of teachers teaching in deprived areas. I also mentor as part of the Urban Synergy mentor programme. Seeing young people reach their potential is very important to me!
If there is one book you wish you’d written, what book would that be?