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Libraries Without Walls: Nurturing the next generation of readers in Ghana

A former First Lady of the United States was once quoted as saying that ‘‘Libraries allow children to ask questions about the world and find the answers. And the wonderful thing is that once a child learns to use a library, the doors to learning are always open”.

Who We Are

We are a group of young community shapes based in Ayikuma a town in the Shai Osudoku District of Ghana. Our aim is to nurture the next generation of leaders through reading, arts and creativity and mentorship.

We are tackling the poor reading culture among children especially in rural areas and getting children excited about reading books, sharing their stories and leading conversations about their thoughts and experiences.

Our Story

As a community service enthusiast, Paul Mensah Amanor did his gap years at a not-for-profit school called Mawuvios Outreach Programme. It was at Mawuvios School that his paths crossed paths with Precious, a young girl who could not spell her name at the age of nine. Precious gradually found meaning in the alphabets we wrote on the board when she learned to join the letters into words, words into sentences.

Today, she cleverly writes about herself, her dreams and what she boldly imagines her future to be. There are many children like Precious who need a hand to cross the borders in their lives. His time with Selina, spanning over 4 years, inspired Paul and other volunteer staff including GilChrist, Emma, Charity and Abigail to start a reading programme for to instill and intensify a culture of reading in the school and community. However, with the absence of a library facility in the community, furtherance of this aim looked nearly impossible.

Pilot Project: Tree Library

So in order to cover for this obvious gap in the narrative, Libraries Without Walls was birthed in the latter part of 2017 to respond to this urgent and important community need- the need for young ones and indeed everyone to have access to books and read.

Through our partnership with Mawuvios Outreach Programme, we started our first pilot project called Tree Library using books from Mawuvios.

The Tree Library Programme operated on a simple, yet innovative premise- age appropriate books for all levels were suspended in woven baskets within reach of every child so that children of all ages read alfresco on a rotating shift basis in a natural environment during school days and on weekends.

The outcome was as remarkable as it was inspiring. We saw an incredible number of students from all levels of the school reading at least one book every week, which translated into 4 books every month and 48 books every year.

Students who had particular challenges with pronunciation and spelling were taken on in special literacy sessions to spur them on. Weekly rewards were given to pupils who completed their reading tasks satisfactorily.

For us, this outcome was one bold step to nurture the next generation of confident, strong, and bright readers and leaders. The following year, our little idea caught the attention of Junction Mall Ghana and we were honored with The Junction Mall Ghana Founders Day Award for our service and spirit of volunteerism to the community.

The prize money was used to purchase sports materials and other scholastic supplies for use by the project and the school. Later that year, our idea made an entry into the Bayport/Reach for Change Teacher Innovation Competition where it emerged as one of the top ten most innovative ideas and received a prize money to facilitate the project.

Through the generosity of our friends from Scotland-Alan McGinlay, his daughter Laura, we received an amazing collection of books to facilitate the Tree Library programme and expand reading opportunities for kids in the school.

And through the leadership, mentorship and amazing support of staff at Mawuvios Outreach School, the Tree Library project became an institutionalized programme in the school till date.

Our Current Project: Free Mobile Library

In his recent address, the President of Ghana, H.E Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo announced that some pre-tertiary students will stay home until January 2021. For most children in Ayikuma and for that matter many parts of Ghana, it means they will not have any real learning experience and opportunities for the next six months, having spent nearly six months at home in the wake of the Corona Virus Pandemic.

It was against this background we at Libraries Without Walls decided to organize Ayikuma’s first free community reading, literacy and arts programme for children in the age range of 6 and above.

The main goal of this programme dubbed ‘Ayikuma Reading Programme’ is to get kids in the community to read, explore their creativity and play in the safest way possible. More importantly, it is a response to the growing need for kids to learn as they wait to go back to school in January 2021.

Since our launch, we have expanded the reading programme to nine communities and have met 725 kids so far. We are looking forward to expanding our programme to five other communities before the end of 2020.

 


Author: Paul Mensah Amanor

The writer is an avid reader, a compelling writer, a community service enthusiast, a master of ceremonies and a menstrual equity advocate among others with over 5 years of experience in youth leadership and community service spanning over six not-for-profit organizations.