Reading Jewels of Kibera

Crowns are in order to celebrate reading

By Thomas Bwire

It is Sunday, and these young minds do not differentiate the days of the week. It is a sight to be seen. Children scattered everywhere in the RedRoss Primary School compound reading immediately captures your attention as you enter the premise.  
This unique session,  “reading,” has become the best part of the week for them. Some of the children are in a first-floor classroom made of iron sheets and painted blue. While others can be seen sitting on a mat outside not willing to miss out.

Children in their early years between class two and class four sit on brown benches neatly arranged in a classroom. Each one of them is keenly reading a book. This unique practice happens here every Sunday afternoon, a reading ritual when the normal school program is not in session. Dressed in their home clothes, the boys and girls pore over several popular comic titles like the ‘The Lost bag’, ‘Mwanza’s Wonderland’, ‘Broken Promises’ among others.

“ Reading is good and fun,” chuckles Bernice Twili one of the Litworld alumni members that volunteers during the Sunday afternoon reading activity with the children who are below the age of seven.

Twili is the children’s hero. She is their mentor and having spent three consecutive Sundays with her, I can see why Twili is such a darling to the children.

Twili, in orange, during an activity with the children

18-year-old Twili is a committed member of the LitWorld Hub which she joined 10 years ago while still in class four. Her passion for reading attracted her to the hub, but the activities went beyond reading, as the hub also offered extra activities such as singing and games. Initially, it was only targeting girls who were taught how to write and express themselves through stories.

 

Over the years Twili’s reading skills improved to an indication point. On several occasions, she would find herself reading a book hidden under her locker while a normal lessons were on. She happily shares that the reading culture made her perform exemplary in the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education, 2013.

“I got a straight A in my English subject exams and I am really proud of it.” she recalls.

 

Twili regards the LitWorld Hub her second home,

“it helped me have some sense of belonging and also motivated me into writing my own stories and poems,” she recalls with a smile.

During her high school years, she was appointed the school’s deputy president, then later on awarded the presidential title. This gave her an opportunity to participate in the East African Essay Competition back in 2016 where she emerged the winner from over the  2,000 entries, from over 6,000 secondary schools in Kenya.

“Through this passion of reading, I found it necessary to come back and help others, now that I have completed with high school I do not have to necessarily help with academic books like Maths, Science, etc, but teach children how to read and write.”

 

She encourages parents to promote a reading culture at a tender age so it is inculcated in young children.

“when you read, you are able to travel across the world, for example, if I don’t know about America, i get to “travel there” when I read, it’s like I have been there and experienced it!” she says.

The LitWorld Hub participated in the global World Read Aloud Day 2018 celebrations, and in Kibera, together with the club members and other volunteer teachers, they marched across several streets to sensitize the community on the importance of reading.

Members of Lit Club Kibera, making reading fun

The event held at Kenya Assembly of God (KAG)  school grounds saw the children make crowns about their favourite storybook, their favourite characters in the stories that they read and also had a chance to just write what reading makes them feel. To top it off, there was a reading session involving six different member schools participating.

World Read Aloud Day, is an initiative that aims at ensuring that we have a reading culture in our society.

The Kibera chapter of The LitWorld Hub started as an inspiration by the words of Pam Allyn, an American author and also founder of  LitWorld organization. On ‘World Read Aloud Day’ first hosted in 2010, people all around the world read aloud together and share stories to advocate for literacy as a human right, and LitWorld Hub believes in literacy and spreading it globally.

 

Fun with reading

“There is a lot of inward improvement, and personal development which is inspiring because you have a member who was shy, not making much eye contact and after several weeks of sessions at our clubs, you get to see them start to stand up and reading gradually, they bloom and gain confidence and with time they are ready to face the world.” says Maureen Karanja, one of the three LitWorld Nairobi partnership coordinators.

 

Karanja’s sentiments are echoed in the voices of these youngsters who take part in this movement. The zeal and determination to learn how to read has become part of their early journey in the LitWord Hub.

Six-year-old Kimberly Wambui says that she likes to come to the club because it is good and there are good storybooks to read.

“I have read a story about the Duckling, teaching us that we don’t need to be unhappy with ourselves and no one is ugly. Just love yourself.”

Debbie Mokeira, 9, appreciates the time she spends at the club. For her, it’s time to have fun.

“We have fun like painting our favorite things. We read a lot and my favorite is Bunny!”

Twili’s parting shot comes from one of her favorite quotes by Eric Thomas, from his book ‘The Secret to Success’

“We must be ready at all times to sacrifice what we are today to what we could be tomorrow. ”

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