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Dagenham schoolgirl releases first book after being inspired by travels to West Africa

PUBLISHED: 14:00 25 June 2019

Makaylah Williams, 12, has had her first book published. Picture: Davis Williams.

Makaylah Williams, 12, has had her first book published. Picture: Davis Williams.

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Becoming an author is a great achievement at any time of life. Having a book published at the age of 12, though? That's a truly special effort.

But that is what Robert Clack schoolgirl Makaylah Williams, from Dagenham, has done after launching her debut book - My First Trip to The Gambia following a trip to the west African country.

"A lot of young people are influenced by the media," said her proud dad, Davis, "and she thought there would be lions and tigers roaming the streets. She assumed it would be wild.

"(But when she arrived) she realised this was a beautiful country, with people sharing stories, music and food. It's about encouraging people not to buy in to negative stereotypes and to be open-minded."

The book is based on a true story, covering the events of Makaylah's trip to The Gambia for a holiday in October 2014.

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After noting down some of her interactions and experiences in a journal, Davis had the idea of developing her account into a story perfect for imaginative children aged eight plus.

With illustrations by Jason Lee, Makaylah's colourful book wants to "teach children about the continent of Africa and develop their confidence, self-esteem and sense of adventure."

What's more, 10 per cent of book sales will be donated to the Manhood Academy for Boys and the Womanhood Academy for Girls; two local initiatives set-up by Davis which are also inspired by Gambian culture.

Aimed at young people in the African and Caribbean community who might have an absent father or mother, the charity hosts weekly meetings where topics like toxic masculinity, peer pressure, body image, mental health and the effects of social media are covered.

Davis said: "There are massive issues for some of our young people with their fathers not being there, as fathers can't initiate these young boys and introduce them to manhood.

"In The Gambia it's a part of their culture. As soon as they reach 13 they are taken in to the village and taught how to hunt, how to control their emotions; the mindset of the people in that country is different, there is a level of respect for each other."

For more details about the book visit makaylahwilliams.com

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