Speaking up for reading
In September, our partners in fifteen African countries held celebrations to mark International Literacy Day.
Many used it as an opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of literacy and reading, introduce more members of the local community to the library and also to highlight literacy and multilingualism – the theme of this year’s International Literacy Day.
Our partners flew the flag for literacy in all manner of locations from national libraries in bustling capital cities to small community libraries in rural areas.
And everyone was invited – and attended – from Government ministers, national TV stations, newspaper journalists to mayors, chiefs, farmers, local NGOs, publishers, authors, and of course teacher, pupils and their parents.
Books you helped to send were used as prizes for participating schools, providing 100s of new, inspiring children’s books for them to add to their library collections.
Here, our partners tell us more about how they marked the day – and the impact it has had in their communities:
CAMEROON – EISERVI library
“EISERVI library is located in Yaounde, the political capital of Cameroon. The city today is made of all ethnic groups in Cameroon and many people work as civil servants. Ongoing conflict means that IDPs are flocking to the city and school class sizes are swelling meaning that children have to share books often one between ten.
The library serves the community of Yaounde and Cameroon in general with books to meet the needs and aspirations of children and adults, academics and entrepreneurs.
Our International Literacy Day celebrations included speeches, a spelling bee, a tour of the library, poem presentations, cultural dances and a fashion parade. The activities showcased the different languages in Cameroon and students also held a debate on ‘can literacy be acquired through multilingualism?’
The children were so happy to see and access a large variety of books in a well organised library.”
I have discovered as a teacher that I still have a lot to do with my pupils concerning reading and other literacy activities. This event is a spring board for me.
– Mr Effa Joseph, Head Teacher, Government Bilingual Primary School.
“Some of the children who attended the event now come to the library after school. You can see the excitement in them as they read. Some even ask for books to read at home with their siblings.”
ETHIOPIA – Cheffe Donsa Community Library
“CODE Ethiopia‘s Cheffe Donsa Community Library supports a suburban community living about 57km outside Addis Ababa. While it is suburban, it needs further support and the community’s participation in the library is encouraging.
Our celebrations included poem presentations, reading testimonies by library users and contests between students.”
Our library set our community free from darkness. It is our university.
– An elderly participant.
GHANA – Eastern Regional Library
“Ghana Library Authority‘s celebrations were held at our Eastern Regional Library in the city of Koforidua.
Students recited poetry, performed traditional adowa dances and recited books they have read. We also held a six-book challenge in the run up in which students read six books and had to summarise each. We awarded participating students at the ceremony.”
It’s been barely a week but more kids are visiting our library after the event and now parents are making it mandatory that they come to the library even if they cannot read with them at home.
– Koforidua Library
KENYA – knls Lusumu Community Library
“This year’s celebrations were held at knls Lusumu branch library in Kakamega County, Western Kenya. The library is situated in a village where people are predominantly crop farmers and some also rear animals. There is a lot of poverty here and parents are determined to educate their children. The library was opened in 2009 to support parents in this effort – and provide a resource centre for the whole community.
There were songs, a drama, speeches based on literacy celebration. The Kakamega County Governor HE Prof Philip Kutima urged Members of Parliament within the region to consider establishing libraries within their constituencies.”
Books were given to participating schools for their libraries and many of them acknowledged that they had very few supplementary reading books in their schools.
“Following the event we have had an increase in visits, more enquiries about our services, especially from schools who want to know how they can be involved in future library events and registering as institutional members.”
“Grace Rwanda‘s celebrations were held at both the Nyamagabe Youth Centre Library in Nyamagabe and Vision Jeunesse Nouvelle Library in Rubavu. Residents in Nyamagabe live on low income and are mostly farmers. The literacy rate is still moderate.”
“The ceremonies started with traditional dance to songs on the theme of reading and writing in different languages. There were speeches read aloud in Kinyarwanda, French and English. There were also spelling bees, reading aloud, debates and storytelling activities. We also had a display of donated books.
The event really helped promote the libraries and books to the wider communities.”
We were seeking books and we had to look elsewhere but now we have this library it will help us so much.
– Kagame Gad, Primary 6 student.
SIERRA LEONE – Sierra Leone Library Board HQ
“Sierra Leone Library Board’s Headquarters Library in Freetown is in a community dominated by workers, students and a few business people. The library accommodates users from all walks of life from toddlers to elderly people.
Our International Literacy Day activities included a story competition in local languages, a melodrama set to local songs and a demonstration of our French lessons for children. There was also a short skit entitled Had I Known about the importance of having reading and writing skills in your local language because you never know when you will need it. All competitions were also done in the local dialect.”
The celebration of this day each year has helped to raise awareness about reading.
SOMALILAND – Silanyo National Library
“The Silanyo National Library is in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland. It’s the nation’s first national library and serves school pupils, teachers, university students and other members of the public.
Our International Literacy Day celebrations included a quiz for the school children covering science, geography and history in which they had to answer the questions in either Somali, Arabic or English.”
As a result of the celebrations, school teachers that attended have since decided to set a specific time for reading during their school hours.
TANZANIA – Tanga Regional Library
“Tanga Regional Library is a public library run by the Tanzania Library Services Board. The Tanga region is a coastal community where inhabitants mostly engage in fishing, crop cultivation and small-scale business. There is also an urban community of professionals and students.
Our International Literacy Day activities included a library tour, a spelling competition, a reading competition, and cultural entertainment. We also invited all audience members to select a book and read it for pleasure.
The day after the event, parents and teachers brought their children to the library to register for the book club and also to join as members.”
This is the most interesting educational programme I ever expected a local library could organise.
– Mrs Miriam Magambo, parent.
While reading is basic to learning it is also basic to survival. Lack of reading is disasterous because reading is a most efficient way of acquiring knowledge and a source of achieving sound development of our minds … A public library is a place designed to freely support the attainment of those purposes.
Abdulatif Famao, Torf Book Club CEO.
UGANDA – Nambi Sseppuuya Community Resource Centre
“The Nambi Sseppuuya Community Resource Centre is based in a rural community whose basic activity is subsistence farming. The centre is an inititative to contribute to the fight against poverty, illiteracy and disease through education and provision of reading materials.
Our activities on International Literacy Day included reading for pleasure, read alouds, storytelling, poem recitals, letter and reading games.”
The head teacher of a school just across the Nile River came back to the resource centre to thank us and to inform us that the children desired to visit the centre regularly.
“Many people who had not been to this resource centre are now visiting and calling up.”
ZAMBIA – Soloboni Primary School library
“Most of the community around this library are not in formal employment. Most of them are self-employed with no stable income.
Soloboni Primary School’s library serves both the learners and the surrounding community.
Zambia Library Service held a two day event at the school. On the first day schools competed against each other in reading competitions. On the second, pupils led a literacy parade which included a brass band and majorettes, plus book and poetry readings and debates. We also had a reading tent where young readers could enjoy books.”
There’s been an increase in the interest in books. The staff in charge of the reading tent were overwhelmed with the influx of children wanting to read.
ZANZIBAR – Unguja Public Library
“Community members’ activities in Unguja include small business, fishing and tourism. The library serves the general community from children to adults.
At Zanzibar Library Services’ celebrations we had a demonstration in which participants took slogans and pictures that promoted the culture of reading, there was a library tour and students performed a drama highlighting the importance of using the library. There was also drawing, a quiz and a book exhibition which included multilingual books that are essential for community development.”
As a result of the celebrations, many more children have been introduced to the library and the services it offers.
“The local community are now more ready to support the development of library services in Zanzibar.”
Our partners also held celebrations in the Gambia, Liberia, Malawi and Zimbabwe.