Sharing the Joy of Reading with an African Child

Kathy Knowles, OCLF Director

Kathy Knowles was born in Toronto, Canada and received a Bachelor of Nursing Science degree from Queen’s University. She practiced nursing in various paediatric hospital settings including a year in Moose Factory, a Cree community in northern Ontario.

In 1989, Kathy and her husband, John, travelled to Accra, Ghana, West Africa with their four young children after John accepted a position with Sikaman, a Canadian gold mining company. Observing that Ghanaian children in their neighbourhood had no opportunities to read storybooks, Kathy started a weekly reading circle under a tree in their garden. This initiative led to the establishment of the Osu Children’s Library Fund, a non-profit Canadian organization, and the Osu Library Fund, a non-profit Ghanaian charity. Together these organizations have built seven large community libraries in Greater Accra and have helped to create more than 200 libraries in Africa.

The family returned to Canada in 1993. Since then Kathy has volunteered on a full-time basis from her Winnipeg home with the support of dedicated volunteers. She also works in close partnership with Ghanaian library staff, local government officials and board members.

Awards and Recognition

November 2013: YMCA Peace Medallion by the YMCA-YWCA of Winnipeg. The citation reads, “In recognition of outstanding contribution as a Peacemaker.”

July 2013: American Library Association Presidential Citation for Innovative International Library Projects

May 2013: Canadian Governor General’s Medallion Award presented during the Ghana state visit of His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston

Your efforts to give Ghanaian children the opportunity to immerse themselves in the wonderful world of literature have brought our two countries closer together.”

December 2010: Recognized as one of Canada’s 25 Transformational Canadians, a campaign sponsored by Cisco Canada, Globe and Mail, CTV and La Presse

July 2010: Order of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB

September 10, 2010: International Board on Books for Young People [IBBY] -Asahi Reading Promotion Award, presented at the 32nd International IBBY Congress held in Santiago de Compostela

June 2009: Honorary Doctorate of Laws in the Field of Education, Queen’s University, Kingston, ON

“A meticulous self-taught lay librarian who is often called upon for her wisdom as a speaker and an adviser on literacy training and library programs for children.”

May 2009: Soroptimist Making a Difference Award, Winnipeg, MB

A woman who has made a significant contribution to improving the lives of women and children.”

December 2006: Honorary Fellow of the Ghana Library Association, Accra, Ghana

For her untiring efforts and contributions, insatiable interest and commitment to various activities aimed at developing and promoting libraries and the library profession in Ghana.”

May 2005: Flare Magazine Volunteer Award, Toronto, ON

With a wholehearted commitment to sharing the joy of reading and to promoting literacy, Kathy has transformed the lives of thousands through the creation of children’s libraries in Ghana, West Africa.”

August 2004: Special Ghanaian Canadian Achievement Award, Toronto, ON

2002: Lewis Perinbam Award in International Development, Ottawa, ON

“To an individual who has made an extraordinary contribution to improving life in a developing country, all on a voluntary basis.”

June 2001: Meritorious Service Awardfrom Governor General Adrienne Clarkson, Ottawa, ON

Through her labour of love promoting literacy, Kathryn Knowles has enriched the lives of many children half a world away and brought great honour to Canada.”

May 2000: YWCA’s Women of Distinction Award, Winnipeg, MB