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

Reflections: Janet Hogarth

Janet Hogarth with library members

In November 2008 I volunteered at the new library in Goi. This building functions as a community centre as well as a centre for reading. My first night coincided with the performance of two plays for an overflow crowd of friends and parents of the talented drama troupe. I came to realize that their fun-loving, loyal and strong sense of commitment embodies in a smaller way the sense of honour, respect, decency, and commitment to family and community held by the people I met. These young people have a lively interest in the changing world around them. Some of my memories include:

  • children copying the words of a book to practise at home
  • watching Ivy, a kindergarten student, sit on her sister’s knee, repeating the script of “The Yellow Book” and trying hard to pronounce difficult words like “yellow”
  • introducing a Big Book story, and watching as students began to personalize the concepts, in place of copying verbatim
  • using the term “cool” with a teenage boy, then trying to explain the concept, then realizing it wasn’t really all that interesting to him
  • the sparkle in the eyes of a girl telling me why she loves her book
  • being greeted on arrival with fresh coconut from the trees at the front of the library
  • games day where the Lego, blocks and knit dolls provided an abundance of fun, and watching the creative play that developed
  • after school each day when the little people thronged in for fun, stories and games
  • the little five-year-old boy with the pink socks
  • Vivian’s great enthusiasm for the world of books
  • Vivian’s daughter, Rose’s gentle warm supportive presence in my daily life, and her trips with me to the market
  • 7:00am daily walks in the village, and the realization of how closely the daily life in the village plays out under the eyes of a stranger
  • how early the day starts (5:30 am for the joggers with the whistles, and for you also!)
  • the greeting “You are welcome!”, and how I really felt that
  • the sense of patience and resignation among the patients waiting to be seen at a hospital clinic
  • the beautiful beach with its mixed uses, and the sound of the pounding surf
  • the concern for my welfare and for that of all the village people shown by Assemblyman Daniel, a fine man
  • dogs (very few), chickens (lots), roosters (could they please respect a nighttime curfew?), goats (everywhere,and useful scavengers)
  • “Fan Ice”, a frozen yogurt and a guilty pleasure
  • trotros – shared small vans – an adventure, an exercise in patience, an efficient way to get around
  • the ongoing fashion show,- the beautiful colourful prints of traditional dress and the wonderful posture
  • tasty peanut butter, fresh pineapple, sweet little bananas
  • remembering to remove sandals when going inside
  • the energetic sense of purpose shown by the numerous vendors who sell their goods on the street
  • in 10 minutes, getting a significant burn while on a quick errand, – we are almost on the equator!
  • trying to cope gracefully with the humidity – rivers running down your back in the afternoon – and hearing that it will soon be better with the Harmattan
  • enjoying a few of the titles in the excellent African Writers Series, available in the library
  • attending the Yam Festival with Joanna in her home village in the Volta Region, being warmly greeted by some of her family members, and viewing the afternoon ceremonies of the chiefs and members of the 12 villages in the region

From my home I can hardly believe my good fortune to have been able to enter, in a small way, into a part of this community. The people are most welcoming, and working with the children was, as it usually is anywhere, heartwarming and fun. I believe that these libraries are making a significant impact on those who pass through them.

Janet Hogarth