kalusya 1The International Literacy Day, a global celebration of literacy and its importance for individuals, communities and societies, took place on 8th September 2017. The theme of this year’s celebration was, ‘Literacy in a Digital World’. While celebrations took place all over the world, reading ambassadors from Amara Charitable Trust, Aman and Ruhan Jinal Shah and Start a Library joined 200 pupils, teachers, parents and board of management at Kwa Kalusya primary to celebrate the value of books in transforming children lives. This year, for the first time since the school was established in 1998, the children got a chance to join millions of other people across the world to celebrate books and literacy.

Kwa Kalusya primary is located in Lukenya, Machakos County, off Nairobi-Mombasa Rd. This is a semi-arid area and given the persistent drought, access to water and food is a serious challenge. It is very difficult to initiate and sustain projects in the area. The road network is also very poor and most people use motorcycles as the main means of transport. The children walked a long distance on hungry stomachs to come to the school, and Amara intervened by introducing a feeding programme, sinking a borehole and starting a kitchen garden.

kalusya 2Despite the long distance to the school, the partners and library donors were there by 9.00 am, demonstrating their commitment and dedication to supporting education and learning for these children. Also present were the parents, board of management and the head teacher from Mt. View primary together with 5 pupils from the school: The overriding objective being to learn and be part of this great movement that was transforming children lives in the area. At 9.30 am, the children assembled in the morning assembly, where the deputy head teacher elaborated the concept of literacy and the importance of the day. The entertainment from the pupils cracked our ribs as they could not hide their obvious joy and appreciation to Amara for the library gift and feeding program, which had ensured their ‘brains and stomachs remained healthy’.

kalusya 3The celebration was marked by a read aloud session from the book ‘The Forever Tree’. The reading revolutionary from Start a Library led the session by reading from Simulia, a Storymoja mobile application with storybooks for children, while the pupils, teachers, parents, representatives from Amara and the library donors read from the copies of the book in the library. The pupils showed great enthusiasm through expressive reading of the book and answering review questions to gauge their understanding of the story and lessons learned.

The library donors led a session where they gave gifts to the pupils and the head teachers of the present schools. Finally, we assembled for a library lesson where the pupils were joined by the partners, library donors, teacher librarian and other teachers.kalusya 4

The pupils were eager to share experiences of the books they had already read. It was interesting to see how exposure to different books had nurtured creativity among the children. It was now upon the teachers to ensure that they kept the reading spirit alive.

We are continuously identifying and responding to children needs in schools to ensure that they develop the habit of reading for pleasure at an early age and sustain it throughout life. We conduct a wide range of reading promotion activities for children to bring books to life and encourage reading.

kalusya 5We are running a holiday reading marathon, which is a friendly reading competition designed to encourage children to read as many storybooks as possible. We use reading diaries to track individual reading of children, to enable children to document their reading experiences and to encourage parental involvement in children reading and learning. We are inviting schools and parents to sign up their children to the holiday reading marathon.

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