Project update: Supporting school libraries in Kenya with Start a Library
We are proud to partner with Storymoja’s Start a Library programme in Kenya. Start a Library is a reading promotion initiative that seeks to increase access to storybooks in schools and nurture a culture of reading for pleasure. Storymoja envisions a future where there are libraries in all public primary schools in Kenya and a book in the hands of every child.
Start a Library began in 2012 and has now set up over 100 libraries. It has also trained over 1000 teacher librarians and 1600 student librarians who serve as Junior Reading Ambassadors and library champions in their schools. We caught up with Gregory Omondi, Start a Library’s Liaison Officer to hear more about Ng’alalya Primary School’s library, one of the most recent school libraries to open.
Where is Ng’alalya Primary School located?
The school is in Athi River District in Machakos County, not far away from Nairobi. People are moving into the area to purchase plots of land to build and live on. The area is difficult to access by car and most people use motorcycles as the main form of transport. Most people are farmers and their crops include maize, tomatoes and cabbages.
Why did you choose Ng’alalya Primary School to be a part of the project?
We have received thousands of requests from primary schools across the country that don’t have a library and need support to develop this critical facility. Some of these requests come from our partners who champion for the development of libraries in the network of schools that they support. We have a team of ‘reading revolutionaries’ across the country who visit primary schools daily and conduct assessments to collect information about the schools and their current library needs.
Amara Charitable Trust, a local charity that runs a feeding programme for children, nominated and sponsored Ngalalya Primary School for library support through purchase and donation of storybooks.
Prior to our support, the school did not have a library of its own. There was a lack of access to books and supplementary reading materials in the school, which contributed to significantly low literacy and education outcomes for pupils. The area is facing drought and food production is very low. This affects school enrolment, attendance and completion rates as the lack of food at home means that children cannot focus at school.
What part has Book Aid International played in setting up the library at Ng’alalya Primary School and other schools like it?
The charity has donated brand new books to complement local books that form a predominant percentage of the library’s collection. Every library we set up receives a minimum of 1,500 local storybooks and 200 additional books from Book Aid International. We also partnered with Book Aid International to build the capacity of the Start a Library team and other implementing partners on how to build a vibrant book collection, bring books to life and run child-centred libraries and spaces. Amara Charitable Trust provided the funds for procuring local storybooks for Ng’alalya Primary School.
What has the reaction been to the new library at Ng’alalya Primary School?
The pupils were very excited about their new library. The teacher librarians said that the students were proactive in attending the weekly library lessons and reading the books. One said, “I can say that the attitude of the pupils towards reading has changed. The pupils enjoy library lessons; they also come to the library to read. The pupils also borrow storybooks for reading.” A pupil from the school said, “The library has very interesting stories. Last week I read a book called Joseph’s Letter”.
The deputy head teacher has mentioned that the parents were very vigilant in encouraging their children to read as many books from the library as possible because books are a source of knowledge. The teachers were very excited for the library facility and indicated that they have been using the library books to provide support to children with reading difficulties and access supplementary and reference books to supplement the classroom textbooks.
What are your hopes for the children of Ng’alalya Primary School and indeed all the schools where you open libraries?
We believe that a reading nation is a smarter nation. By opening libraries in these schools and providing pupils with reading books and curriculum support materials, we believe that we will shape and transform children’s futures by cultivating a lifelong reading culture and nurturing a generation of critical thinkers and consumers of knowledge. We hope that by reading every day, the children will improve their written and spoken communication skills which will guarantee them a bright future.
And what are Start a Library’s plans for the future?
In the spirit of Kenya Vision 2030, Start a Library is on a mission to contribute to the transformation of Kenya’s society into a globalised and knowledge-driven economy. We aim to attain this in three ways: Advocating and championing for a lifelong reading culture, nurturing lifelong readers and transforming the information-seeking habits of the Vision 2030 generation: the boys and girls in Kenyan primary schools today.
We believe that storybooks are language textbooks hence our concerted effort to enhance access to books to ensure equal opportunity for all children to read for fun and understand the language of instruction. In partnership with like-minded visionaries like Book Aid International, we have started 110 libraries, built capacity of over 1000 teacher and 1200 student librarians. Our plan is to get 500,000 books in 500 schools by end of 2018, build a vibrant network of library ambassadors by training 5000 teacher librarians to reinforce the government mandated library lessons in schools and nurture 8,000 student librarians to serve as Junior Reading Ambassadors, future innovators and drivers of policy on library development.
What an inspiring vision! We look forward to continuing to work with Start a Library to make it a reality. Find out more about Start a Library here and follow them on twitter @startalibrary and Amara Charitable Trust here.