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

Reflections: Sally Bleecker

Sally_150 thumbnailI have recently returned from five weeks in Ghana where I had the very satisfying experience of being a volunteer with this well run program. I was asked to spend two weeks in Accra where most of the libraries are located, partly to orient myself to the various communities and staff and partly to acclimatize myself to the heat and the culture. I was able to both observe and participate in story reading to eager groups of young children; play games and assist in any craft days that were planned; help with the adult literacy class at the original and charming OSU ‘container’ library two mornings a week; and most fun of all, I dredged up long ago memories of camp counsellor days and taught silly action songs to the children. Just sitting down with small groups of children to show an interest in them and praise their reading, had I hope, a positive impact.

After these two weeks, I was able to spend three very happy weeks in the fishing village of Goi with their wonderful team of staff which included the librarian Auntie Vivian, her young assistant Jonathan and her son Jeremiah. A major focus of my time was to help plan a grandmother’s day party which involved assisting the children to write a brief story about their grandmother on a sheet of coloured paper and draw a picture of her. Ultimately, the children completed nearly one hundred of these which were then put up around the library for all to see and point proudly at. They also made up invitations to take home.

Grandmothers came to join the Goi library's celebration of Grandmothers' Day.

Grandmothers came to join the Goi library’s celebration of Grandmothers’ Day.

Vivian and I were at a loss as to how many grandmothers would come and therefore how many biscuits and drinks to buy and we were staggered by the appearance of 93 grandmothers! The young staff got into the spirit of planning a program with the children, which consisted of a short play based on a favourite story book, some drumming, reading aloud and giving the audience a good laugh when I danced and sang the Hokey Pokey with some of the older girls. Very few of these grandmothers had seen the library before and they left happy and the children proud to have shared it with them.

Another highlight of my time was pulling together a ‘book club’ with five fifteen-year-old boys to discuss the Nigerian author Chinua Achebe’s, Things Fall Apart. Although this was an ambitious book for some of them it was clear that they grasped and enjoyed the characterization and loved the idea of discussing it.

Sally with childrenThe accommodation at the back of the library was very pleasant but most of all I felt welcomed and included and appreciated by these wonderful people. As is often the case with volunteer work, I believe that I received more than I gave and I am grateful for the opportunity.