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

Director’s Letter

May 23, 2011

Dear Friends,

Wilson (left), my Haitian interpretor, and the driver from Universite Caraibe

In March, I flew to Haiti with Sally Irwin, an OCLF volunteer, following an invitation from a Haitian professor and IBBY [International Board for Books for Young People] member to take photographs for three children’s books with text in Creole. Our time was spent between Port-au-Prince and a rural community 1 1/2 hours from the capital. One of the books will be titled “Bote” or “Beauty,” and prior to taking the pictures we asked children to describe what was beautiful. Not surprisingly, many of the children responded with food-related topics as sadly many only receive two meals each day. The capital is still recovering from the January 2010 earthquake, with thousands of people still living in tents, but despite their hardships we were told by many that, “I love my country.” A humbling experience, for sure.

I returned home this week from five weeks in Ghana, one of my twice-yearly visits, and I am happy to report that all our libraries continue to function well under their dedicated and hardworking staff members. Like most trips my time was spent going from one library to the next with meetings with officials and community leaders sprinkled throughout each day. Many mornings started with meetings at 0700 as tradesmen who support OCLF libraries came to receive new assignments…a toilet to be replaced, fans to be repaired, and so on. Our dear carpenter – now 74 years old – frequently arrived early to discuss OCLF’s latest furniture requirements, which is a daunting task for anyone but he never seems to lose his energy and pride for his work.

Librarian Vivian Amanor and two children featured in My Pink Book.

We launched five new books including My Orange Book, My Pink Book and My Violet Book. It was such fun to present gift-wrapped copies to the children featured in the books along with those who contributed. Library members are now eager to have more books in our colour series, and they suggested My Black Book, My Brown Book, My White Book and My Ash Book. We have since added the possibilities of My Book of Stripes and more! Providing books for young readers with themes and images that they can relate to makes all the difference when trying to make books come alive.

The major focus for this trip was the new library on the compound of the Accra College of Education near Madina, a community on the outskirts of the capital Accra. I tried my best to arrive most mornings by 0800, just as the 25 or so workers began their day’s work. We have been watching this building grow since its beginning in January 2010 when trees were cleared from the site. The now-completed building is striking with its blue-tiled mosaic pillars gracing the entrance and the “Sharing the Joy of Reading” tiled message embedded into the concrete pathway leading up to the front steps. Raymond, OCLF’s tiler since 1998, on his own initiative included a tiled Canadian and Ghanaian flag on the exterior wall. Kojo Maclean, the project manager, ensured perfection to the degree possible – not an easy task – and Roger Amenyogbe, the project’s architect, and his son, Andrew, were there to witness its completion.

The new Accra College of Education Community Library is ready to receive its first visitors.

We had planned on commissioning the new library in early May but that wasn’t possible. I had made it clear from the start that we would not open the building without the installation of a traffic light on the busy street the building faces, which was a stipulation agreed upon prior to initiating the project. Fortunately progress has been made and I was told that speed bumps would be installed within a month, as the first step along this process. Appointed staff members have had their training and will be doing reading promotion at nearby government schools during this waiting period. Everyone is most anxious that the library be opened immediately, but I am insisting on the light to ensure safe crossing for the thousands of children who we anticipate will frequent the library.

Deborah Cowley, a long-standing volunteer from Ottawa, joined me for most of my visit. There was plenty to do and it helped considerably to have Deborah coordinate the myriad of details.

My daughter Kaitlan, her husband, Steve, and their little baby Ginny came for two weeks. I had a dress made for Ginny with OCLF’s joy of reading fabric and so she was definitely part of the team!

Yours sincerely,

Kathy Knowles

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