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Growing the reading aspiration through a read aloud challenge

Every year Kenya National Library Service (knls) in partnership with Story Moja Publishers participates in a read aloud activity, which is marked on the day that we celebrate the African Child. The celebration of International Day of the African Child which is celebrated on June 16th every year, was initiated by the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in 1991, to mark the Soweto Uprising in South Africa in 1976 and to raise awareness of the need to improve the quality education provided to African Children. .

knls aims to strengthen the reading culture and re-introducing the love for books to both children and adults through the use of reading promotion activities. Most people in general read mainly for academic purposes and not for fun, which limits their knowledge. Reading helps develop the mind, enhance creativity, and helps people to listen and develop language skills. The mind is a muscle and it needs exercise to remain strong and increase. You can also discover new things and develop imaginations through reading.

During this year’s celebrations, children were invited to participate in a read aloud activity in partnership with schools within close proximity of knls branches. Muthoni Muchemi published in the year 2012 titled the book chosen to commemorate the day “Attack of the Shidas Akas Save Planet Earth”. The book is science fiction best fit for ages 11-15 years (Grade 6-Grade 10). It is quite interesting and the three main characters Tosha, Shana and Pato add spice to the book. The book is blends well with our environment and talks about how communities will turn against each other and that elates well to our reality as a country. The 2007-2008 post-election violence is a good example of how communities turned against each other, many people lost their lives, property was destroyed and many families left homeless and displaced. The story promotes the important societal values of ethnic tolerance, equality and non-discrimination. Indeed, we have to deal with the challenges that hinder the educational progress of the African children and the book totally complemented the objective of the annual celebrations.

Karatina Urban Primary School was one of the schools honoured to participate and 32 children and 2 teachers were involved in the event that took place inside knls Karatina Branch at the children library. The children loved the event and wished to be invited in future events. The book was educative and informative to both the children and teachers so much so that they wished that they could each get a copy of the book. The children were able to relate the story to their day-to-day activities. The challenge was to read aloud and this helped most children to improve their reading skills and pronunciation of words. The shy kids were also able to overcome their fear and anxiety and read. Some students showed off how they can read big words (words beyond their grade level). It was also fun to the students because missing a few hours of school is always relaxing and enjoyable. I know I did not mind missing a few hours of schools or days.

The teachers were quite happy with how the students interacted with the story and they learnt a few things from the story and pledged to participate in future events. They were willing to adapt the same reading culture in their school in both lower and upper classes. Since the book is quite expensive for some students, they wished the library had copies of the book but we know that with financial aid from donors and well-wishers we will be able to have the book available in all our 64 branches. The teachers were saddened by the fact that this event was the first one that Knls has held to celebrate Day of the African Child since 1991.

The teachers recommended that the next year’s event should be a reading competition and other activities should be included. 2-3 schools should be invited which would make it more fun for the students, and the best pupil would get a reward. Rewards are motivating factors to a lot of children and adults and it brings out the competitive side of children, which is quite a spectacle.


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