Sharing the Joy of Reading with an African Child
for 25 years

Director’s Letter

December 2010

I arrived home two weeks before Christmas to sub-zero temperatures of Winnipeg and a blanket of snow, vastly different from the balmy breezes of Africa. This visit, like all others, was full with special events, a myriad of meetings, arrangements for new projects, and conversations with keen library members and their dedicated librarians.

The new library on the compound of the Accra Training College campus is progressing. On several occasions I met with Kojo Maclean, our very competent contractor, Bright, the foreman who I have known for 12 years and others…masons, carpenters, tilers, painters and labourers. In each case, we talked about ways to enhance Roger Amenyogbe’s striking architectural design. I also met with community leaders to discuss issues for the library’s long-term success. Despite the herculean task of raising funds, it is really the easiest part because sustainability is crucial for any library’s success.

Library members and literacy students from the Kathy KnowlesCommunity Library took part in the library’s 19th sponsored walk. The destination was Ghana’s main fire hall and everyone delighted in seeing the fire trucks, observing the control room, and testing the water hose. The amount of money generated from the walk is not significant but it represents an effort on behalf of those who use the library and an annual excursion that everyone looks forward to.

Another event was the annual Sports Festival. Two hundred children from five libraries and their librarians gathered to enjoy games and races. We introduced hula hooping and Ambrose Nazzah, the dynamic organizer, ingeniously used light-weight canes and tape to make the hoops. It was deemed the most popular event!

My trip’s highlight was OCLF’s daylong annual workshop for 55 librarians across Ghana followed by dinner with music to celebrate the International Board for Books [IBBY] – Asahi Reading Promotion Award. The guest presenter for the workshop was Dr. Nana Araba Apt, a Ghanaian professor from Ashesi University, and she inspired everyone with her words of wisdom.

Mid-way through my time in Ghana, I left for Tanzania to present a three-day library workshop for 14 Maasai schools with one teacher and two students from each. The participants left with confidence that they could run their own libraries. Each school received a trunk filled with Swahili storybooks, plastic to cover books and mending supplies. Vivian Amanor, a librarian from Ghana, was also hoping to go but her passport was not ready in time. A disappointment, for sure!

It was an honour to have Paulette Bourgeois, Canada’s well-known writer of the popular Franklin series, visit Ghana with her daughter Natalie. She presented a three-day writers workshop during the Ghana International Book Fair and the participants gained from her years of writing experience. Paulette also spent time at four OCLF libraries and two literacy classes. At one library she witnessed a performance of Franklin has a Sleepover!

Publishing culturally appropriate books for African children is an OCLF goal. While in Ghana I heard from Joseph Abongo, a director for a literacy program in northern Ghana. In response to receiving some of our books he wrote, “Osu Children’s Library should keep up this classic masterpiece for it will highly motivate every child everywhere in the country to read them always.”

Deborah Cowley, my colleague, and I spent a great deal of time taking photographs to complete four photo-illustrated books that were started on a previous visit. We now, I hope, have sufficient pictures for My Pink Book, My Orange Book, My Violet Book and Mumaizu and the Hippos.

On my last night I spent a few minutes with the evening literacy students at the Nima Centre and was introduced to a newcomer. This middle-age woman was laboriously writing out letters of the alphabet, always a first step in the learning process. I asked Abdoul Moro Taufic, the facilitator, if the learner knew how to write her own name and the answer was no. I then wrote out her name – REBECCA – and asked her to try. After much deliberation she did so and we clapped to celebrate this milestone. It was a humbling experience to witness this small but significant step towards Rebecca’s journey of literacy.

Yours sincerely,

Kathy Knowles

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