US President Harry S. Truman famously once said, “not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” As St Jude’s Standard 1s learn to read and explore their first stories, they are taking their first steps towards leadership.
The literacy rate of Tanzania is reported by IndexMundi at less than 70%. Reading is not just a basic skill needed for everyday life but is also an avenue to develop critical thinking, imagination and even ambition.
While the wonder of leafing through a book remains an all-too rare experience for some students in Tanzania, St Jude’s students are given every opportunity to expand their imaginations and skills. They can feel the warm glow of having a book and a space that is wholly theirs, and into which they can escape.
Standard 1 student, Agape, smiles when she remembers the first time she saw the rows of books that line the walls of the library at Sisia Primary Campus at the start of the year.
The first book that caught her eye was Bilby Moon by Margaret Spurling, where little Bilby's quest for the missing moon takes her on a journey of wonder and discovery.
“I like to learn about animals and reading helps me learn new words. I can’t wait to move up to the bigger books. It’s so quiet in the library, it’s really nice for reading,” Agape shared quietly, looking up from her book.
Her classmate, Shedrack, was engrossed in an early learner maths book, X Marks the Spot, by Lucille Recht Penner which he chose on his first visit to the library this year.
In the book, Shedrack followed characters Jake and Leo who reluctantly move into their grandfather's old house where they receive a mysterious postcard about treasure maps in the attic. Books like this give students a chance to learn some beginner mathematics while also enjoying a treasure hunt story!
These entry level books are just two of the many that fill the libraries at both the primary and secondary campuses. To maximise the potential of these valuable assets, the library collections have been reviewed to determine which areas need most development.
Importantly, the school is also installing a new web-based library management system. Visiting librarian, Judy Gillespie, is assisting the staff with this major transition.
“The new system offers a more flexible and tailored method of finding suitable books for all students. By improving the cataloguing of books and allowing greater search options, the librarians can help students like Agape and Shedrack find the books that interest them and suit their reading level.”
It is generous supporters who have helped build our libraries over the years, bringing donated books with them from all across the world. Now, our team of librarians say the greatest need is for higher level non-fiction books, to help students access the latest information for their studies and explore other interests having established a love for reading in their early years.
“St Jude’s has some amazing books however, it needs more subject books to meet the local curriculum, particularly in the secondary school. Expanding the collection of African fiction is a priority too because it’s important for the students to read books that reflect their culture and experience. With the new system, the librarians can also explore the possibility of students accessing ebooks, meaning more students can read the same book at the same time and have the most up-to-date information.” Judy explained.
While the library is one of the quietest places on campus, it is within these walls that students develop their ideas and aspirations. If education is to lift our students out of poverty, it means they need to imagine another world and have the skills to excel in it, and that starts with reading their first book and the many that follow. Thanks to those who help give the gift of literacy to the 1,800 students here, they are on the way to becoming the future leaders of tomorrow.
Help us broaden students’ imaginations and skills by donating today, so our library staff can purchase the books that are most needed.