Reading Review, by Kofi Larbi

Reading is the quintessential ingredient to develop both mentally and physically but in Africa there are times when books are not accessible to children to read or that there are not enough facilities provided for reading. The average African child especially in the rural area is not socially engineered to walk to the library himself to go and read to fill his curiousity. All his questions about life are answered by his parents who’d rather he put his time in practical things like manual chores around the house or go farming.

The girl child is always at a disadvantage when it comes to education in general and so reading is out of the question.

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In this globalized world where children in other countries are doing and creating innovative things, the African child still lags behind in intellect and knowledge because they are generally just users of the products created by other children worldwide. With the lack of the basic and necessary foundation of reading, African children grow up to only perpetuate the status quo of being second rate citizens of the world.

The I Believe In Reading Project was founded on the principle of getting children to read and therefore providing the necessary facilities for reading.  The primary aim of the project was to raise a thousand books to be donated to the Tamale Regional Library in a month. A book collection (and buying) drive was organized and in total 1368 books were gathered in one month and out of this of thousand was donated to the children’s library.

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In consultations with the regional library, the project also realized that the library had a mobile van that was sent to outreach districts where children had no access to books or a library but there were challenges with requisition of materials and facilitation of such journeys further into the hinterland.  The project agreed to part fund and sponsor such outreach as and when it was planned and executed. So far we have part sponsored one such outreach sending volunteers and fueling the van.

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After the book donation, in consultation with the director of the regional library, it was realized that some pupils, inasmuch as would want to read books could only come to the library on weekends and they were so far away that it had to be an organized trip with the  students or pupils hiring a vehicle, usually a motorking cycle to cart then to the library. In the capital and other cities Ghana where people took reading for granted, these children were usually on an excursion just to spend the day at the regional library to read.  This story caught the attention of The Multimedia News team (Joy Tv)who were in the library to cover an event and the project was called upon to help out if possible.

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I Believe in Reading together with the library staff took a trip to the school and donated 300 books to the school’s library. The school population of almost 200 had only 8 books in a closet they aptly named Little Library. In his acceptance preach the headmaster of the school lamented that their plight made them handicapped to provide quality education for the pupils. With the lack of a proper library, students didn’t get to explore that much.

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With this speech, another dimension of the project was born. Not only will I Believe In Reading just provide the books for the schools and communities to start libraries, it will also get a fitting structure, at least a shed, where pupils in the community could sit under after school hours to read as extracurricular. What needed to be done will be to facilitate a teacher to supervise and a structure to put the books in, that can be wheeled in and out of storage and put under lock and key. So far we are yet to build any such structures.

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Apart from the institutionalized donation of books there is also the facilitating of personal libraries to children within the communities.

Recently the.project partnered the African Youth Writers Organization to organize a Funky Reading and Writing Clinic where 25 children were taken from basic schools in the Tamale area and taught reading and writing skills. The aim of the clinic  was to make these selected children peer mentors so they could reach out to their mates. Each child was to be set up with an individual personal library of 150 books at home and so far only 12 of the children have got the books for their own libraries.

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I Believe In Reading further gives numerous books randomly to children in the streets everyday. We spot a child who looks nerdy and obviously likes to read we give a few books based on the interaction and interests. Pupils at a local primary school get a bag of books from I Believe In Reading and HTC Foundation,  others in extra classes after school get reading and writing  materials, the local shoemaker’s children gets books, so does the airtime seller whose boys are always jumping about after school but will settle down to read a good book. There usually is no criteria for these group of donations.

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The project so far has been sponsored by friends and supporters usually via social media campaigns. Apart from going round collecting books, both old and new, we have an arrangement with some bookshops that give the project boxes of children’s books at a discount to support the project. Donations have come in cash to pay for the books and also in kind via book donations and even other materials.

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Furthermore some Ghanaian authors have also been very supportive with their books, some even internationally acclaimed award winning books, for which we have been very grateful.

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I Believe In Reading is not done in a vacuum but in partnerships with other like minded organizations that work with and around children in general and literacy in specific. Some of these include Help The Child Foundation,  The Readers Club, Hop In Academy which are based in Tamale and GhanaThink and iHav Foundations which are international.

Apart from partnering with other organizations I Believe in Reading project is supported by volunteers from the book collection point until donation and also at self styled and partnering events. The volunteers are sometimes motivated with book rewards or trips to book donations in rural areas. Some volunteers were brought from Accra to Tamale to participate in the very first 1000 book donation to the Tamale Regional Library.

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Sometimes I Believe In Reading sponsors some of the volunteers education by providing books that are relevant to their courses of study since they’re mostly tertiary students, especially in management and IT. The project also rewards on the ground coordinators with current books at Ghanaian authors some even not yet on the market.

For the past over a year that I Believe in Reading Project has existed, it has expanded from just staying in the northern region to support other library building projects and other literacy projects in other regions. But the main focus is still on the northern region.

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We are grateful for everyone who has supported so far and inasmuch as it is a daunting task we have set ourselves to do our bit in facilitating child literacy in the northern region and Ghana as a whole.

We are still counting on the support from individuals and groups who find our cause worthy of supporting. Little by little one child at a time we are building a leading nation because a reading child is a leading adult.

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They say brighten the corner where you are but like I always say it begins with YOU!

Author: Kofi Larbi

You can visit his blog at http://www.kofilarbi.wordpress.com

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