I am passionate about books because books changed me. I am a different person because of them.

Madame Ann, Kenya
Home Education Empowering girls

Empowering girls

For Madame Anne, reading is second to breathing, and it’s this attitude that she is determined to pass onto her students.

Madame Anne is the director of the Royal Diadem school in Kenya. Having been born in the community she now works in, Anne is fiercely passionate about education for girls and has been teaching children for many years to help break the cycle of poverty that so many in her community are faced with.

We heard from Anne about her love of books, her tenacity to create change, and why she thinks books are the key to a brighter future.

“My name is Madame Anne. I am the director of the school, a mother and a wife and a leader. I read either very early in the morning, or late in the evening. Before sleep, I must read a book. I love books and that is why I am where I am. 

I would like for everyone to hear my story and the story about the school.

I have a passion for children to learn – it’s something that I found myself pulled to. If my cousin didn’t take me away to show me the importance of books – well I wouldn’t be here today.

I am passionate about books because books changed me. I am a different person because of them. If I did not read I would not be seated here with you. Books to me are life because they opened up my mind. They have given me knowledge and have opened doors for me. Not only for me, but for my community. 

I believe if I never read a book I would still be the naïve girl who only knows the environment that I’m used to, but books have caused me to see. I can learn about America or I can learn about London. Now books are open, I can see far.

There are many challenges that people in this community face, FGM being one for example, but another being education. Education is key.

Also, there is the issue of poverty. Many children are orphans or have no fathers and they don’t have the money to go to school or even for food, so they end up being married at that age, like my mother who was married at 13 years old. This is reality.

Here, we run a school feeding programme so those children who have no parents are able to have breakfast by 10 o’clock and by lunch they have something to eat too, so it’s only in the evening that they don’t have any, but at least they eat well in school so they are not hungry. 

We are able to sustain this feeding programme by the little money that we get, the parents who are able to pay a little do, and my husband and my sisters help the school and help our community, so that is how we are able to feed these children.

A students joins Anne so they select books to read together

My favourite book is probably a storybook because I love reading stories for the children – there’s one about a giraffe and I love telling them how we look at giraffes with long necks – and now I know the reason why the giraffe has such a long neck! 

I think it is better to have a book, even if it’s an old one, rather than not having them at all like where we were before. You see before children used to read newspapers- collected, not newspapers that are bought, because in this area we don’t buy newspapers, we don’t even have them. 

Now the children are learning! So it has made a real difference to my community, there are people who are coming to us for books, so I’m seeing it’s not only the school students. 

I have a friend and she didn’t have a great reading level as she left school early. But after seeing my life with books – because I cannot go to my bag and not find a book – she asked me ‘why do you always carry books?’ and so I told her my story. I told her that books are important to me as they opened my mind, they allowed me to speak boldly, they teach me, they give me confidence that I would not have, they help me communicate – I used to be so timid, but because of the books I am who I am. So I spoke to her about it and now she’s gone back to university and she’s doing her degree. Books have changed me, and they’re doing that the other people too. 

To the people who support Book Aid International – I would say: you have done it. You are written in the history of my community.

There were no books, but now this library is full of books to marvel at.

You can still help us to reach more girls, reach more students and children, so that their lives may be changed too – I know because I know the position we were in before we got the books. Thank you so much. What a great thing for a person to do.”

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