‘’ I pledge to read stories for fun, to imagine, explore and learn.’’ – Storymoja Reading Pledge

The pupils of Martin Luther Primary were used to travelling long distances in the search for good and appropriate reading material. Even though the school had a library, the books were very old and that meant that the pupils couldn't relate with the stories therein. The need to read and understand had them walking distances of more than 5kms just for one book they could share in a class of 40. Most of them would make this journey after the school day, and it would be dark by the time they got home. This was really stressful for parents and teachers because they never knew where the children were and if it was safe to be outside at such times.

lutherThat all changed on Friday, 17 March 2017 when the school received a library through the joint efforts of Start-a-library and Cooperative Bank. The library was stocked with 1000 storybooks, more than enough books for the 810 pupils. The occasion was graced by Dr. Auma Obama, the Storymoja festival patron, representatives from Yetu Org and Co-op Bank, pupils, parents and other dignitaries.

Martin Luther Primary School is a mixed day school located at Hamza, Makadara, Nairobi County. It is an integrated school with a unit that caters to special needs pupils. The area is very lively due to the the numerous residential buildings around the school and the busy road that passes just outside the school.

In preparation for our visit, the library had been cleared of all old books and the shelves lined with old newspapers. Some of the pupils also helped by cleaning the floor and other surfaces while others arranged chairs around the available tables. There were several cartons of books that were to be given out and shelved, and the look of joy and wonder on the pupils’ faces as each book was unveiled was priceless. The teacher had to constantly remind the pupils to get on with their cleaning every time they would pause to gawk at the books. The ones who couldn’t get in stood outside the window and looked in, whispering excitedly amongst themselves.

auma with Martin Luther Children in the Library

During the launch, we were entertained by presentations from the pupils. There was an electric charge in the air as the pupils waited for the library to be officially opened. The library filled up in minutes after the ribbon was cut and pupills formed a line outside waiting for their turn to enter. Their first look at the books had them looking for a place to sit so that they could start reading immediately.

 

The library has really transformed the school community. Pupils spend every available spare minute at the library catching up with their favourite storybook characters and discovering the joys of reading for pleasure. They even delay going home in the evening so that they can find more time to read. This has been welcome with a huge sigh of relief for the parents who can now be sure that their children are safe and off the streets. The library is also opened on Saturday, giving the children an opportunity to spend the day reading and opening their minds to endless possibilities, instead of wasting time looking for something to do.

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They don't just read alone, either! The pupils have formed groups within the classes where they choose one book to read collectively and discuss. They also engage in debates and spelling bee competitions among themselves. Due to this, the teachers have noted a steady increase in exam scores, especially in languages.  The school has also received an E-Library from Kenya National Library Service.

Going forward, Start-a-Library plans to engage with the school through the introduction of book club diaries. These will be used by the pupils to record the books they read as well as engage their parents who will have a huge role to play in ensuring that their child reads every day. We are looking to work with likeminded partners to make this happen.

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