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

Reflections: Penny Gershon-Giaccone

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

What do teachers do on summer vacation, anyway? Well, this teacher took her two daughters, Sophia and Callie, to Ghana! We volunteered at the Kathy Knowles Children’s Library in Goi, a small fishing village near the capital city, Accra.

In Goi, most families live in mud huts and cannot consistently send their children to school, if at all. The library is run by Vivian, an enthusiastic trained librarian and mother of four, who acts as “mother hen” towards all her visitors, young and old. The library itself is a spacious, welcoming place to read, do a craft, make a puzzle or just take a rest on a woven mat.

We arrived in Goi with suitcases laden with school supplies, minds whirling with teaching ideas (that would be me) and dozens of balls of donated wool–yes, wool! Why wool you ask? Well, we were told that Vivian was very “crafty” and had quickly taught the children how to crochet from a how-to book left by another Canadian volunteer. So, interspersed with reading readiness activities, we decided to teach the children how to make their own corking spool. In turn, they could fashion their corking into colorful bags, toys, small rugs and purses.

The first step was to make the spools. We needed toilet paper rolls, masking tape and nails, easily found in Accra but not common fare in a tiny, fishing village! What was I thinking? Undaunted, I took a very, very, very old taxi, with Vivian, to the “big” market in Sege and found the necessary supplies. Again, what was I thinking? Vivian only makes a total of 70 cedis per month and the taxi ride and toilet paper rolls came to almost half of that amount! Needless to say, by the end of the week, the children had created beautiful projects. Most chose to make a small shoulder bag to carry a handkerchief and a small Bible to church services.

We took many “body breaks” where Callie taught the children the Hokey Pokey and read them Dr. Seuss and Eric Carle, complete with actions. Sophia showed the older students how to play Bananagrams and Scrabble and how to locate Accra and Ottawa on the map. I taught them poems like “Who Has Seen the Wind?” and took them outside to draw the trees. Last but not least, Vivian shared her story, we shared ours and she got to keep a month’s supply of t-paper!

We cannot say enough about the wonderful work done by Kathy Knowles and Deborah Cowley, the volunteer coordinator for the organization.