If I hadn’t read, I would know very little about the world. I know much more because of the books I’ve read over the years.

Puleni, reader, Malawi
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A lifetime of reading

For Puleni, books have been a life-long companion. He shared with us the impact that a lifetime of reading has had on his life and his hopes for younger readers in Malawi.

My name is Puleni Chilikukumnzako. I was born in 1947, I am 76 years old and I live in Malawi.  

My first memory of reading is from 1959. I was given a book that talked about various tribes in this country and that book opened my interest in reading. It’s true to say that I’m a frequent reader at the National Library. I have been coming here to read since 1965, the first year the library was set up. I have children but am no longer married. I have been living on my own for 21 years and that has contributed to my desire to read. 

I worked in the civil service, but it was my ambition to go to university and become a teacher. I couldn’t go, but the ambition is still there. Even at this age, if I had the chance to enter the university and somebody could be responsible for my college fees, I’d enter the university and I’d read and write. 

My mother was illiterate, but she supported my education. She said an educated boy is a clever boy. When you read, you are well informed. In addition, you find that you know the world, you know something about the world, whether geographically or historically, and even scientific development. You can participate in any conversation whether it’s political, whether it’s economical, on any topic, you’re alright.

The impact on me of reading has been very great. I can participate in any discussion, even with top people, professionals, or professors, I can discuss things with them.

The books that Book Aid International sends are very attractive, I must say. The colours are bright and they have covers that cannot be easily destroyed. Because of the new research that has been made over the years, it means that in comparison, the new books have more information, because [the authors] have undertaken modern research using modern equipment. If the library only had second-hand books, with torn covers, it would not be as attractive and the children and the students would not like it in here.   

Puleni reading in the library

I have greater knowledge because of the books I read. Reading has helped me to understand situations. I will continue reading until I depart from this earthly world. 

We need more books because we have to know what is happening in the world. Any book that is new should be sent because there will be somebody who is going to want to read that book. We are many in Malawi, you see, and the truth of that is there are many interests, particularly among our young people who are going to various kinds of universities, and different types of professions. So, history books, geography books, books on technology, those books should be sent because there will be somebody who is interested in that kind of book.  


Photos: (c) BookAidInternational/TChikondi

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