The possible harms of Snow White: should we send western fiction to Ghana?

This is an extract of a coursework essay, which challenges the very idea of sending books from the UK to Ghana, something that Reading Spots has done to an extent, whilst also trying to provide as much African fiction as possible in each library (this is more expensive than shipping books). I think it is always important to consider the arguments against your practices, and whilst this often leads me feeling deeply cyclical about our own endeavours, this critical approach has certainly helped Reading Spots to progress and better function as a partnership-focused charity.

The inspiration behind the essay was Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TEDTalk, ‘The Danger of a Single Story’, which I’d heartily encourage you to watch here – she offers a far better explanation of the issue than me!

In December 2016, Reading Spots shipped 7000 books to a village named Akumadan in the Ashanti Region of Ghana, to fill the shelves of the first significant community library in the North Offinso district. On examination of the 7000 books, we found that African authors wrote only 20. Furthermore, research suggests that a small percentage of these 7000 books would be likely to contain African characters, with even less depicting African heroes and heroines; indeed, a recent study suggests that only 22% of characters in children’s books published in America in 2016 were black (Cooperative Children’s Book Center, 2016). None of the books in Akumadan were written in the dialect local to the Ashanti region: Twi. The ‘African Fiction’ shelf, though carefully labeled, was initially left with just a few books leaning against the side. When we returned three months later, and questioned young readers the titles of their favourite books, three library users from Akumadan quickly responded with ‘Snow White’. It seems important to question of the heroes and heroines of western fiction, as Grumpy and Doc themselves question of Snow White: ‘what are you, and who are you doin’ here?’ (Disney, 1937).

NGOs such as Book Aid International have long been exporting western fiction to Sub Saharan Africa, with Book Aid International claiming to have sent 205,938 books to Kenya alone in 2015 from the UK, distributing books to schools, community libraries, prisons, refugee camps, and hospitals (Book Aid, 2017). Books for Africa has sent over 38 million books to 49 different African countries, in order to ‘end the book famine in Africa’ (Books for Africa, 2017), with the charity trying to place access to books alongside that of basic humans needs. However, what percentage of these books contain African role models? How many of these books describe situations foreign to the African child? As in the case of Snow White, there is neither snow in Ghana, nor are the pupils ‘skin whiter than snow’ (Grimm); certainly, there are a number of important implications of Ghanaian pupils being only able to access texts by western authors.

Firstly, there is the consequence that the pupils’ vocabulary is limited to those words used in the books. While a pupil may become an expert in their understanding of English and American vocabulary and usage, she may struggle to converse accurately in her own community or in later employment, whether in English, or their local dialect. The pupil may even find that the lack of relevance hinders her ability and desire to read at all. Secondly, the messages underpinning the books may not relevant to the particular social issues faced by Ghanaian children. For example, the popular Ghanaian story, Kofi has Malaria, informs children of vital prevention methods for mosquito bites. It also appears that not only does the western fiction lack relevance linguistically; it also imposes an epistemological framework onto the Ghanaian child. This could lead to a decline of the values previously adhered to. Lastly, it could be argued that as a result, Ghanaian children and adults might suffer a loss of identity, and a sense of alienation from their own education system, and the stories that have been told aurally by generations before them.

It must be noted that Ghana’s dependency upon NGO book providers is linked to the limited resources provided by the state. The Ghanaian government has prioritized increasing the access to reading material to a degree, with its website stating that the Ghana Library Authority acquired 72,410 books to stock the ten Regional Libraries and 50 District Libraries (Ghana, Ministry of Education, 2017). However, in reality, many pupils cannot travel to access these libraries, and there is a lack of participation particularly within rural communities (Elbert, Fuegi and Lipeikaite, 2012). Much noise was made around the creation of the President John Evans Atta Mills Presidential Library in Cape Coast in 2016, which focused on documenting the leadership of a past president over local literacy (Modern Ghana, 2016)


Postcolonial approaches highlight the cultural, social and economic legacies of colonial rule, considering the imposition of language upon the previously colonized country, as well as truth-structures that position them in role of the ‘other’ (McCowan, 2015). Foucault (1965) highlights how dominant knowledge systems ensure that their version of reality is strengthened and perpetuated through discourse and social systems. Postcolonial theorists apply this notion of epistemological dominance to the relationship between colonizers and colonized (McCowan, 2015). Whilst the scholars differ in their approaches, they all highlight the impact of the ‘epistemic violence’ (Spivak, 1988: 280-281) upon the colonized whether through causing mental illness (Fanon), sustaining continued separation as the ‘other’ or ‘Oriental’ (Said), or leading to a sense of alienation from their communities and culture (Some, 1994; Adjei, 2007; Adichie, 2007). Postcolonial approaches request that this epistemic violence is part of any analysis of education in previously colonized states, whether referring to past accounts or future conceptual analysis.

Capabilities Approach:

Human development approaches argue that all humans have a right to be able to be and do what they have a reason to value (McCowan and Unterhalter, 2015). The key idea that underpins human development approaches more widely is that humans are the ends, not the means, of development (Sen, 1999; Nussbaum 2001: 18), following Kant’s categorical assertion that individuals should never be used as a ‘means to an end’ (Kant, 1975). This is a clear move away from emphasis on the individual’s role in wider economic growth given in the human capitol approach (e.g. Mincer, 1981); Sen (1999) recognized that low GDP does not always equate to lack of well being. Capabilities are identified as freedoms that enable people to achieve ‘beings and doings’ that they deem to be of importance, which are known as ‘functionings’ (Sen, 1999). For example, a child might have the capability of being able to read, due to the provision of books, and when she chooses to read the books, reading becomes a ‘functioning’. Education under this approach plays a vital role in empowering individuals, equally, towards fulfilling the capabilities they desire (McCowan and Unterhalter, 2015).

This ties to a corresponding theory of ethics offered by Singer, in which he suggests that the right action is to be determined by the most number of ‘preferences’ satisfied (Singer, 2011). This approach is crucially a shift away from the classical utilitarianism offered by Bentham (1789) and Mill (1863), in which the focus is upon certain standards of pleasure or happiness. Singer, like Sen, recognizes that humans value things differently – indeed, the capabilities approach is resolutely ‘pluralist about value’ (Nussbaum, 2001: 18). This seems in part to compliment the postcolonial scholars’ desire to acknowledge the diversity of the human experience. Whilst Sen was careful not to place any value-judgment on any particular capabilities (although Nussbaum (2001) suggests he places particular value on health and education), Nussbaum offers a list of capabilities including ‘practical reason’, ‘play’, ‘senses, imagination and thought’, and ‘political and material control over one’s environment’ (Nussbaum, 2001).

We shall explore the three interwoven issues of language, epistemology, and identity, which arise from the importing of western fiction to Ghana through these two theories.


Postcolonialist Analysis

Firstly, a postcolonial approach might suggest that providing books in English set in the western context entraps learners into taking on key aspects of western culture through the language itself. Language is a ‘form of life’ (Wittgenstein, 1953), echoed by Fanon’s statement that men possess ‘the world expressed and implied by that language’ (Fanon, 1967); therefore, whilst it may at face-value appear harmless for a child in Akumadan to read a book such as Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series, the children subconsciously take on a way of life which is not their own, immersed with cream teas and western notions of ‘adventure’. Adichie highlights how ‘impressionable and vulnerable’ children through absorbing stories – her own craving for ginger beer and concerns about the weather as a result of reading predominantly western books in Nigeria, were a clear clash with her own environment and cultural expectations (Adichie, 2009); indeed, pupils may find themselves craving western materialistic possessions that they may never be able to own.

Even if the books are printed in English in order to improve pupils’ understanding of the national language, it is certainly possible for African authors writing in English to communicate much of the ‘African experience’ through their writing (Thiong’o, 1983: 8). Many African authors suggest that the best way to fully communicate African ideas is to translate literally from the mother-tongue into the European language, suggesting that if the wording is kept as close as possible to the original expression, then the reader would best be able to ‘glean the social norms, attitudes and values of a people’ (Thiong’o, 1983: 8). Achebe points to the need for a ‘new English’, which is represents the African environment and voice (Achebe, 1975). African novels and folk stories have unique features such as representing character traits of humans through animals, as Alai highlights throughout his novel The Rhino in the Paddock (Alai, 2016). The methods through which Africans use to represent the characters that exist in their society are evidently vital to an understanding of that country’s social dynamics, and therefore it seems destructive to the child’s social education to not make such fiction in the library available to them.

In addition, the postcolonialist might argue that the imposition of English in itself is a continuing symbol of western dominance. Although many have suggested that there are advantages of minority languages being lost or demoted for the purpose of national development, many argue that there is a great cost of losing a local language (Howe, 1992), due to its role as a ‘carrier of culture’ (Thiong’o, 1983:13). Achebe felt that he had no choice but to write in English rather than a mother-tongue, despite him suggesting that it ‘produces a guilty feeling’ (Achebe, 1975). Fanon goes as far as to suggest that resisting colonial narratives and purging their influence upon the mind as a mentally cathartic practice (Fanon, 1963). Whilst in Ghana the national language did not profit a specific ethnic group, the decision to hold onto the use of English did reproduce inequality. Alexandre (1972) argues that it is possible to see a partition of class along linguistic lines in Africa (May 2012). Although it is important to note that local dialects are still taught in schools, and especially prioritized in the Primary years of education in Ghana, English it a vital ‘gatekeeper to positions of prestige’ within society (Alexandre, 1972), with many finding that they cannot access jobs in certain professions or own a business without being a skilled speaker of English.

Capabilities Approach

It might first be argued that the provision of Western reading material in English leads to the advancement of basic literacy in Ghana and that this would seem to enhance the capabilities enjoyed by individuals. Ghanaians would seemingly choose western books over no books at all. The postcolonial narrative vitally ignores the current desires of those in previously colonized countries to benefit from resources offered to them to improve their English. It is clear that libraries containing western fiction can help close the gap between rich and poor in literacy development (Frimpong, 2015), especially given that UNICEF reports that only 1% of Ghanaian children have more than 10 books in their home, and that 31% of Ghanaian adults are illiterate, with far higher figures in rural areas (UNICEF, 2017). Having access to books is in itself instrumental in developing ‘senses, imagination, and thought’ (Nussbaum). However, if pupils are not being presented which a choice of reading-based consumption, this appears to goes against Nussbaum’s notion of ‘control over one’s environment’.

Indeed, on a practical level, those supporting the capabilities approach may argue that pupils’ capabilities may be limited by a detrimental impact of the books, due to issues concerning accurate usage of words. Meaning is established through nuanced use of language within ‘language games’ (Wittgenstein, 1953), and for this reason it vital that fiction is provided for children in which the usage of words is ‘acted out’ through situations relevant to their environment and communicates.

More importantly, there is evidence to suggest that books that focus on the western context and neglect African characters are less appealing to the reader than African fiction, and thus whilst the ‘capability’ to read might be open to pupils, this might not translate into a ‘functioning’ of reading. Mackintosh speaks of his experiences of returning to a school library he had supported in Malawi, and finding ‘piles of dust-covered books’. He came to a realization through talking to Gambian friends that the books were culturally inappropriate for the pupils, all featuring explicitly European characters (Mackintosh, 2007). Research has indicated that libraries in Sub-Saharan Africa containing books that are relevant to context is the key motivator to the likely continued use of the library, with 45 percent of non-users identifying the provision of relevant reading material as a factor that would catalyse their use of the libraries, and 58% of users citing lack of sufficient range of books as the main reason for dissatisfaction (see below, Elbert, Fuegi, and Lipeikaite, 2012). Whilst these figures do not necessarily point to a dissastification with western fiction, the statistics do show that choice is important to potential library uses. The preferences of individuals do seem better satisfied by the inclusion of African fiction as a choice. One boy in Dent’s study also highlights the improvement in behavior and performance in class as a result of improved understanding of English from reading books written in both Luganda and English from a local library in Uganda (Dent, 2013)

  1. Epistemology

a) Postcolonial Analysis

It is clear that there are numerous epistemological implications of importing western fiction to various sites in Africa offered by the postcolonial perspective.  Spivak highlights the importance of giving subaltern experiences a voice in literature (Spivak, 1999), applying Foucault’s term ‘epistemic violence’ to describe the removal of non-western epistemological lens’ on the world. Indeed, ‘How we see a thing…is very much dependent on where we stand in relationship to it’ (Thiong’o, 1969), and therefore it seems wrong to present fiction to children which presents them with what Adichie might term a ‘single story’, suggesting that if you ‘show a people as one thing …that is what they become’ (Adichie, 2009). Fundamentally, postcolonial thinkers would want to steer the direction of fiction within African towards that which places ‘Kenya, East Africa, and then Africa in the centre’, (Thiong’o, 1969).

However some might suggest, contrary to the postcolonial canon, that some metanarratives are more valuable than others, and that it is possible to assert certain ways of knowing as superior to others. If we fail to assert an epistemological hierarchy we might be left in a slippery slope towards the position of postmodernism, which Lyotard (1979) defines as ‘incredulity toward metanarratives’, and is epitomized by statement that ‘anything goes!’ (Feyerabend, 1975). It is clear that to avoid the disorientated position of postmodernism, critical analysis is vital to determine which truths seems to cohere with other beliefs that we hold to be ‘true’ within our ‘language game’. Andreotti directly addresses the difficulty of a possible shift into absolute relativism, suggesting that ‘truth and morality are contextually defined’ and therefore a critical examination of the contextual ‘baggage’ of knowledge production processes is vital (Andreotti, 2011:215).  Others might reinforce the importance of variety, in order for pupils to be able to compare the views and lifestyles presented therein to their own; clearly offering only western fiction will give pupils a bias system of reference, and undermine the process of open critical analysis.

Santas goes further in highlighting the need for global cognitive justice, asserting the urgent priority for all actors in the world to reassert the epistemological diversity present, and bring back local wisdom that has been marginalized. She highlights the faults with much western imperialist knowledge, such as noting that capitalism has ‘ecological limits’, rejecting what she terms a Cartesian assumption that the ‘res extensa’ (extended thing) of the environment is ‘unconditionally available’ for humans beings holding the ‘res cogitans’ (thinking thing) (Santos, 2014: 23). Under this view, it would seem that the NGOs exporting books to Ghana are somehow complicit in this ‘epistemicide’ – whilst not purposefully excluding the local epistemology, through its very absence in both the created library, and the process, local knowledge is subject to ‘epistemic violence’ (Spivak, 1999).

Much has been written with respect to the difference in knowledge systems in question: for example, indigenous cultures tend to rely heavily on metaphors and stories as a means of imparting knowledge (Andreotti, 2011: 221). Cajete (2000) highlights the difference between a ‘rationalist’ mind and a ‘metaphoric mind’, suggesting that the metaphoric mind constantly creates stories ‘from collective subconscious or semiconscious images’. Dion-Buffalo (1990) explores the impact of metaphors working through shifting moods, and creating mental change through being ‘seeds of thought’. It seems vital to respect that knowledge is diverse: it is varied in both its form, and in the process by which knowledge is gained.  Indeed, it is important that alongside the provision of African fiction, libraries also create book clubs where oral storytelling traditions are preserved, and an element of Ghanaian play is continued. In the first library established by Reading Spots in Abofour, pupils meet at 7am each Friday to critically examine books and their covers, share riddles, and play a literary version of ‘truth and dare’, all run by a local school’s library Prefects (Reading Spots, ‘Abofour Library’).

Furthermore, pupils are usually aware of books having a Western origin. Even if they do not arrive with a charity’s stamp and a ‘donated by’ sticker, Ghanaian books have a different look and feel to them, due to the different designs, paper, and fonts used by Ghanaian publishing companies. Stirrat and Henkel (1997) analyse the impact of NGOs giving ‘gifts’ to lower-income countries, following Mauss, in suggesting that ‘there is no such thing as a free gift’, and that gift-giving can only reaffirm difference, even in those NGOs which emphasize the importance of partnership, due to the asymmetry involved in relationships between rich and poor. Indeed, it can be seen that if, even by looking at a book, a child is aware that the book is donated from the West, that it symbolizes his own country’s inability to provide the material, and consequently the epistemological superiority of the west. Stirrat and Henkel notes that whilst altruistic or ‘pure’ gift-making can be founded on ‘universalistic ideals about the unity of humanity’, it is also ultimately a process governed and preserved by a ‘recognition of difference’ (Stirray and Henkel, 1977). It certainly seems that if books within librarians were Ghanaian in origin and context, the impact of this concern would be minimized.

b) Capabilities Approach

Young and Muller (2016) have argued in favor of the universal application of certain ‘powerful’ knowledge, which they consider to be more important and ultimately better extend capabilities. They suggest that we all intuitively understand that some knowledge is ‘better’ than others (ibid, 2016: 116), pointing to STEM subjects as the most ‘democratic’ and ‘the closest we can get to universal knowledge’, due to the ability to test this knowledge against the world, whereas cultural and traditional knowledge seems to be context-bound.  However, returning to the capabilities approach, it seems important amidst this attempt to assert an objective set of criteria for the ‘bestness’, to reassert the value of individuals or communities determining that knowledge which they see most valuable. Young and Muller (2016) clash with Sen (1999) in suggesting that allowing individual preference holds little value in the case of curriculum planning and educational provision. Thus under their account, the most important thing with regards to the books transported to Akumadan is that they fall in line with the most recent scientific theories. Indeed, books being up to date with recent scientific theories is often a key criteria for book-shipping charities (e.g. Books for Africa, 2017).

There are some instances where it might be beneficial to the freedom and dignity of individuals for pupils to be aware of values that might be found within western fiction. Referencing Mill’s harm principle, most liberal thinkers agree that the preservation of freedoms should not lead to harm of others (Mill, 1859). Some knowledge can play a essential role in preventing harm, although real care needs to be taken over the labeling of positions as ‘western’ when they are rather ‘scientific’.  For example, looking at a recent practice in Malawi where men named ‘hyenas’ were paid to have sex with girls when they reach puberty as a form of ritual ‘cleansing’ (BBC News, 2016), certain books might have been able to provide the girls and their families with frameworks to consider the unacceptability of this practice, and the scientific knowledge of how HIV can spread may have assisted them. However, quite clearly, just because books are African, it does not mean that they will not contain central ideas of human rights, medical knowledge of HIV and issues surrounding human dignity; indeed, these are topics of key priority in the current Ghanaian syllabus. Although Andreotti (2011) carefully highlights from a postcolonial perspective that human rights ‘cannot be presented as a “universally agreed” unproblematic set of values’, she does recognize its potency for protecting civilians from violence, particularly if the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is critically analysed and not viewed as a ‘an uncontested, ahistorical, depoliticized, and decontextualized’ framework (Andreotti, 2011: 212). Postcolonial insights provide a valuable tool for the critical analysis of abilities and/or rights approaches, due to the their focus on seeing all theoretical bases ‘through other eyes’ (Andreotti, 2011: 217).

Fundamentally, with respect to knowledge, it appears that the gains of understanding that are achieved by pupils reading some donated western fiction, outweigh the postcolonialist narratives and power relations that might be further entrenched by their readership. The fact still remains that just 1% of children in Ghana own 10 books (EFA Global Monitoring Report team, 2015:14). For this reason the EFA Report recommends that children are given further supplementary reading material that is more accessible for children to be able to self-teach themselves, through the association of words with illustrations in particular. This is exactly what western NGOs are providing at low cost through the imported fiction. However, the inclusion of knowledge relevant to the Ghanaian environment, alongside the western fiction, will clearly lead to further functionings desired by the Ghanaian child.


a) Postcolonial analysis

The postcolonial approach would highlight the fact that reading western fiction rather than African fiction in a local dialect, or in English, might lead to a confusion of identity. Identities are constantly reformulated by the constant power context in which they exist, and humans at any age are so often unaware of the ‘hands that are writing us’ (Andreotti, 2011:222).

 It is clear that relevance to one’s own situation and community is key. There has been much criticism of the educational leaders in previously colonized states taking too long to move syllabi away from Euro-centric content towards an African-focused syllabus. Thiong’o argues that this delay in Kenya led to a separation between a child’s education and his home environment, where ‘bourgeois Europe was always the centre of the universe’ (Thiong’o, 1983: 17). Adjei (2007) stresses the extent to which the Ghanaian curriculum was suffused with knowledge that was irrelevant to his own environment, giving the example of Geography lessons requiring him to study rivers ‘seven thousands miles away from his Ghana’, and History lessons that failed to acknowledge the existence of any Ghanaians who played a positive role in the country’s past. The oral tradition that was a central part of his childhood education was left out of the curriculum, and the lack of relevance and reference to local traditions led Adjei to a sense of alienation, a crippling loss identity and a lack of national pride (Davison, 2017a, Dei, 2000). In Nervous Conditions, Dangarembga (1988) describes the relationship between a girl and a relative who has adopted white ways, who she struggles to interact with. The implication of this story is that through reading western fiction many Ghanaians might start to feel what Fanon recognizes as a ‘hybridized split existence’ (Young, 2003) whereby they try to live as ‘two incompatible people at once’.

It is clear that if pupils are reading books that only contain white role models, that this may further consolidate the notion of white supremacy within Ghana. For example, statistics from a study by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center found that in a sample of 3600 children’s books published in the US, only 3.3% were about African-Americans. Indeed, Adichie states that she ‘did not know that people like me could exist in literature’  (Adichie, 2009). This may reinforce the idea that pupils are to look to Europe ‘as her teacher and the centre of man’s civilization’ (Thiong’o, recommendations of the Working Committee, p7.). Bush and Salterelli (2003: 3) highlight that ‘children do not come to the classroom as blank slates’ – they have lived through their children adopting various practices, behaviors and attitudes; this it seems vital that these practices are represented in the fiction they access.

Freire (1968) argues through his notion of ‘conscientization’ that education should be used as a means to empower individuals, and sees active participation in creating syllabi as vital to the freedoms enjoyed by individuals. This could translate to Ghanaians taking an important role in not only choosing the material that they read, but also the importance of all Africans having the opportunity to contribute to the literary canon available.

b) Capabilities Approach

It would be impossible for a full set of freedoms to be given in relation to reading material in order to ensure that every socio-economic context in Ghana was represented. No matter what books are contained in a bookcase, there will always be some minority experiences, which are not represented and this could lead a loss of identity. However, as access to the Internet is improved, more pupils are gaining increased freedoms with respect to their ability to access knowledge that may be better tailored to the environment and upbringing of an individual. The African Storybook Project has been formed to create a digital library for early grade readers with stories that are uploaded by individuals and translated into various local African languages such as Twi (African Storybook Project, 2016). This will enable individuals to advance their learning in the mother-tongue independently from parents, which will assist with the later development of the ability to read in English (US Aid, 2014).

Others might argue that the very notions ‘capabilities’, ‘rights’ or indeed ‘freedoms’ are in themselves western notions, and assumptions are thus being made in its implied usage as a universal doctrine; indeed, Andreotti points to less positive consequences of the concept of rights as an ‘alibi for… types of intervention’ by countries with ‘ambiguous aims or interests’ (Andreotti, 2011:212). It may also be seen that some Ghanaians do not prioritize freedoms, or indeed the preservation of identity, over the basic economic gains they might see their children make through investing time in improving their English through reading. Fanon himself asserts that the most important thing is the need for the redistribution of wealth, rather than various political debates (Fanon, 1963).  Bhaskar (2008) might similarly suggest through his ‘critical realism’ that the underlying causal factors that lead to the lack of most important capabilities, need to be addressed first, before the preservation of culture is considered, which Maslow (1943) might suggest to be the ‘physiological needs’ of water and food. However, those using the libraries usually already have the basic requirements of food and water, and thus it seems that enhancing their education, in line with their context, is the best way to maximize their chosen capabilities, boost use of the facility and reduce a sense of alienation.


Ultimately, the provision of any reading material has an overarching positive outcome on the development of individual capabilities. However, due to the imposition of western epistemology, pupils lacking Ghanaian role models, the symbolism of the gift as representing inadequacy, and the importance of preserving regional cultural heritage, all NGOs importing western books to Africa should ensure that they provide a significant section of African fiction. This will not only allow pupils to explore writing within their own context, but also fundamentally enable African publishing companies and authors to prosper, which itself develops many capabilities. It has also been shown that the inclusion of context-specific fiction will further participation in reading, which seems to be the primary goal of the NGO projects being examined.

It seems unwise for NGOs to needlessly further insert western notions into an education system that is moving away from Euro-centrism. However some knowledge has universal benefits and can provide key practical information with regards to vital economic and scientific advances that can ultimately improve well-being amongst Ghanaians – however, this may not be viewed as ‘western’ knowledge, but rather ‘scientific knowledge’, equally applicable to all, linking to the notion of ‘powerful knowledge’ (Young and Muller, 2016).

The decision of Kathy Knowles, the Canadian founder of the Osu Library Fund that has set up a number of libraries in Accra, to create her own series of Ghana-focused fiction, penning Ghanaian ideas, could be seen as a step forward; but, ultimately, it is vital for Ghanaian authors to be given the opportunity to have their own work made available. It is for these reasons this essay has informed Reading Spots’ decision to continue to export western books due to the vast financial advantage of utilizing the surplus of excellent quality fiction in the UK, yet the charity balanced this with a decision to ensure that at least 20% of the books in the libraries it fields are focused on the African context, and purchased from African publishing companies.

Any views or comments are most welcome – I don’t consider myself an expert!


Achebe, C. (2010) A British Protected Education, ‘Politics and Politicians of Language in African Literature’. Penguin Modern Classics.

Achebe, C. (1975) Morning Yet on Creation Day. Published by Anchor Press (1975)

Adjei, P. B. (2007) ‘Decolonising Knowledge Production: The Pedagogic Relevance of Gandhian Satyagraha to Schooling and Education in Ghana’. Canadian Journal of Education / Revue canadienne de l’Education, 30 (4), 1046-1067.

Alderson, P.  (2016) ‘Critical Realism and Research Design and Analysis in Geographies of Children and Young People’ Geographies of Children and Young People: Methodological Approaches, 2016, Evans, R. and Holt, L. (eds). Singapore

Andreotti, V. (2011) Actionable postcolonial theory in education. Palgrave Macmillan.

Ayer, A.J. (1953) Language, Truth and Logic, Penguin 2001 edition.

Benhabib, S. (1992) Situating the Self. Routledge

Bentham, J. (1789) Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation. Dover Publications (June 5, 2007)

Bhaskar, R. (1975) A Realist Theory of Science, Verso 2008.

Brezinger, M. (1997) Language contact and language displacement.

Chakrabarty, D. (2000) Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial thought and history. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Davison, C. (2017) ‘Ghana’s metamorphosis: an examination of the success of Nkrumah’s education policies in Ghana (1951-1966) as a tool for peace building.’ Essay submitted for Conflict, Fragility, and Education in May 2017.

Dei, G. J. S. (2002) Schooling and Education in Ghana. International Review of Education September 2002, Volume 48, Issue 5,  

Dent, F.V. (2013) ‘A qualitative study of the academic, social, and cultural factors that influence students’ library use in a rural Ugandan village.’ University Libraries, Long Island University

Elbert, Fuegi and Lipeikaite. (2012) ‘Public libraries in Africa – agents for development and innovation? Current perceptions of local stakeholders (Electronic Information for Libraries)’ Sage.

Fanon, F. (1963) The Wretched of the Earth. Penguin, 2001.

Feyerabend, P. (1975) Against Method: Outline of an Anarchistic Theory of Knowledge. First edition in M. Radner & S. Winokur, eds., Analyses of Theories and Methods of Physics and Psychology, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1970.)

Fanon, F. (1967) Black Skin, White Masks. Grove Press; Revised edition 2008.

Freire, P. (2013) Education for Critical Consciousness. London: Bloomsbury. [Ch.6, Education and Conscientização]\

Freire, P. (1976) Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Penguin 1996.

James, P. (2006) Globalism, Nationalism, Tribalism – Bringing Theory Back In.  SAGE, London.

Kant, E. (1785) Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals. Hackett Publishing Company, Inc.; 3 edition (June 15, 1993)

Loomba, A. (2005). Colonialism-postcolonialism. Oxford: Routledge.

Lyotard, J-F. 1979. La condition postmoderne: rapport sur le savoir. Paris: Minuit.

Mackintosh, M. (2007) ‘Making Mistakes, Learning Lessons’, Primary Geographer 62. pp19-21

Maddox, B. (2008). ‘What good is literacy? Insights and implications of the capabilities approach’. Journal of Human Development 9,2, 185-206.

Mauss, Marcel. (1990) ‘The Gift: The Form of Research and Exchange in Archaic Societies’ (1990)

 Maslow, A. H. (1943) ‘A Theory of Human Motivation.’ Psychological Review, 50(4), 370-96.

May, S. (2012) Language and Minority Rights. Routledge.

Mill, J.S. (1859) On Liberty Longman; New Ed edition, 1998.

Mill, J.S. (1863) Utilitarianism. Hackett Publishing Co, Inc; 2nd Revised edition edition (1 Mar. 2002)

McCowan, T. and Unterhalter, E. (2015) Education and international development: an introduction. London: Bloomsbury Academic Press

Mincer J. (1981) “Human Capital and Economic Growth” Working Paper 80, National Bureau of Economic Research. Available from:  (accessed 20/05/2017).

Nussbaum, M. (2010) Not for profit. Why democracy needs the humanities Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Nussbaum, M. (2011) Creating capabilities. Cambridge: Belknap Press.

Nkrumah, K. (1964) Consciencism. Monthly Review Press (January 1, 1964)

Said, E. (1980) Orientalism. London: Routledge. pp 322-8 (‘Orientalism Now’ is also reproduced in Lauder, H. et al. (2006) Education, globalization and social change. Oxford: Oxford University Press.)

Said, E. (1993) ‘Representations of the Intellectual’ The 1993 Reith Lectures

Sen, A. (1999) Development as Freedom. OUP Oxford; New Ed edition (18 Jan. 2001)

Sen, A. (2009) The Idea of Justice. London: Allen Lane Penguin

Skutnabb-Kangas. (2000) Linguistic Genocide in Education Or Worldwide Diversity and Human Rights? Mah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Singer, P. (2011) Practical Ethics. Cambridge University Pres

Smock and Enchill. (1976) The Search for National Intergration in Africa

Spivak, G. C. (1988) ‘Can the Subaltern Speak?’. In C. Nelson and L. Grossberg (Eds), Marxism and the interpretation of culture (pp. x, 738 p). Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Some, M. P. (1994) ‘Of water and the spirit: Ritual magic and imitation in the life of an African Shaman.’ New York: Penguin Books.

Stirrat, R.L. and Henkel, H. (1997) ’The Development Gift: The Problem of Reciprocity in the NGO World’.

Takayama, K., Sriprakash, A., & Connell, R. (2015) ‘Rethinking Knowledge Production and Circulation in Comparative and International Education: Southern Theory, Postcolonial Perspectives, and Alternative Epistemologies.’ Comparative Education Review, 59(1).

Dangarembga, T. (1988) Nervous Conditions. Zimbabwe Pub. House (1988)

Tomasevski, K. (2001) Right to Education Primers No. 3: Human rights obligations: making education available, accessible, acceptable and adaptable. The Right to Education Project, Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA). Accessed at:

UNESCO, (2016) ‘Education for people and planet: Creating Sustainable Futures For All’. Global Education Monitoring Report, Paris, UNESCO – available on the UNESCO website.

Wa Thiong’o, N.  (1986) Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature. Heinemann (2005)

Wa Thiong’o. (1969) Homecoming, London. P145

Wittgenstein, L. (1953) Philosophical Investigations. Wiley-Blackwell; 4th Revised edition edition (6 Nov. 2009)

Young, R. (2003) Postcolonialism: a very short introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Young and Muller. (2016) Curriculum and the Specialization of Knowledge London Routledge.

Online Resources

African Storybook Project (Accessed 29/05/17)

The Danger of a Single Story, Adichie. Ted Talks, 2009. (Accessed 29/05/17)

Book Aid International: Kenya. (Accessed 29/05/17)

Books for Africa: About: (Accessed 29/05/17)

Butler, E. ‘The Man Hired to Have Sex with Children’. BBC News, Malawi. (Accessed 29/05/17)

Davison, C. ‘Projects: Abofour Library’.

Davison, C. ‘Reading Spots Book Drive’. (2016) (Accessed 29/05/17)

‘Donate Books’. (Accessed 29/05/17)

Donkor, J and Abdullah, ‘President John Evans Atta Mills Presidential Library Inaugurated’. Modern Ghana. (Accessed 29/05/17)

‘Education Rights: A Guide for Practitioners and Activists’. (Accessed 29/05/17)

Horning, K.T. ‘Publishing Statistics on Children’s Books about People of Color and First/Native Nations and by People of Color and First/Native Nations’ (Accessed 29/05/17)

‘Best Practices for Developing Supplementary Reading Materials.’ USAID, 2014. (Accessed 29/05/17)

Donnella, L. (2017) People Of Color Accounted For 22 Percent Of Children’s Books Characters In 2016 (Accessed 29/05/17

Kwarteng & Ahia. (2013) Rethinking English Language in Ghanaian Schools (Accessed 29/05/17)

Snow White. (2017) (Accessed 29/05/17)

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) (Accessed 29/05/17)

‘At a Glance: Ghana’ (2017) (Accessed 29/05/17)

Sustainable Development Goals. (Accessed 29/05/17)


4 thoughts on The possible harms of Snow White: should we send western fiction to Ghana?

  1. Great piece! I lead an organisation that is working to start community-led primary school libraries in Honduras and we’re trying to put a focus of Latin American stories as well. Would you be ok with us sharing this on our social media?

  2. The organization is opening libbries in some communities to improve the students around the communities to be able to make something out there as a whole.And also see their bright future ahead

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.