Inspiring the next generation through books
Prosper, Rigobert and Patience in Rwanda grew up with little access to books outside of school. When they graduated from high school, they saw the impact this had on some of their friends who struggled to write letters, apply for jobs and even communicate on social media.
They and three of their friends wanted to change things for the next generation and so they decided to open a children’s library – the first in their district, Musanze. They saved up enough to rent a space for the library for six months and Agati Library was born.
Here Prosper, Rigobert and Patience tell us more about the library and how it is already impacting local children in Musanze:
Why did you decide to open a library?
Rigobert: When we were kids we didn’t have the chance of having a place where we can get books.
Patience: And so, for some, they are finishing high school and even writing a letter is hard, it can take you like two days.
Prosper: Or they can’t apply for a job, so they have to find someone else to do it for them. I was lucky to be able to go to school but this is the case for a lot of others.
Patience: So when we left high school we made an association.
Rigobert: We were looking for things that were lacking in our community and thinking of the things we could do to help our community and we came up with the idea of making a small library for kids.
Patience: One of the co-founders had the chance of writing a book, the book became successful so when we were thinking about what we lost with not having books, we saw that it was a big loss for us not having a library in our city. So we said let’s do it!
What activities do you run in the library?
Rigobert: The first mission is to promote literacy in our community and also promote art at the same time because I am an artist and I wanted to teach the young kids how to paint to give them the opportunity to become a great artists.
Prosper: Kids come and read but we also run other activities to incentivise them to keep coming to the library so they don’t feel like reading is boring. So on the weekends some kids who are passionate about art come and Rigopert gives them some basics. And we also feel like sports is a really important thing so we ask regular readers who are interested in sport to make a team – it might be basketball, tennis, whatever.
We also have the reading sessions so that we can engage the parents at the library – they can come, read to the kids so the kids can believe reading is healthy.
But we don’t say it’s our library, it’s a community library so we encourage everyone, every parent and young person, to bring their ideas together and keep building the activities.
Last month we were very happy when some students from P6 asked “can we do a debate club at the library because these children at this other school, were saying that they are better in English than us?” And we were like “wow!”
What difference is the library making?
Prosper: When we started the library, many kids would come to the library and open books but not read them – they were just playing with them but now, they take one book, finish it and take another one. The more we open the library, the more they get used to the books.
Patience: Our regular users have become fluent in reading. One time we hosted a competition for primary schools and we saw the results that the kids who are the regular readers were better than the others.
Patience: At the start they would come and read only Kinyarwanda books but now they are starting to love other books in other languages like English, French and we see the impact they have because the kids can even interact in the language.
Rigobert: Our region is a touristic region – we have the Virunga Mountains, the gorillas, so it is good for the kids to know English so they can communicate with new people, so they can help them in different things.
Did you have any idea your library would become this popular?
Prosper: When we opened the library, we didn’t think it would get to the huge level it’s at now.
Patience: It’s become like part of our lives. As we were coming to the end [of the first six months] we were seeing a huge impact to the community – hundreds of kids were coming to the library.
Prosper: So we said “okay, even though we don’t have someone else to support the library and work together, let’s look at different things” [to keep the library open].
What do you hope for the future of your library and the community?
Prosper: We want the library to last even longer. Not two years, five years – a hundred years. So it’s the thing we want to be there forever in our home town.
Rigobert: People they think that reading is not our culture but we have to change that kind of mentality. That is why our library is focussing on kids. We thought that if we can help them love reading, they can be the great people in the future that can also help others to love reading.
Prosper: So we hope these kids who are reading now, who are loving books are the ones who when they finish high school can explain themselves in English, can write a letter, apply for a job, so we believe these kids will in the future be the great leaders.
Thanks so much to Prosper, Rigobert and Patience for sharing their inspiring story and the difference the books that our supporters help to send are making!