Over 19,000 books were recently distributed by the Kigali City Council to 60 primary schools in a reading campaign dubbed “Mobile Library.” The books are expected to be read by the pupils and a month later taken to other schools until all the 167 primary schools in the city have had their chance.
Such a move by the KCC and Bakame Edition (a local publishers’ association) is quite commendable. Not only does it address the habitual problem of a poor reading culture in the country it also deals with the structural problem of absence of libraries in the country.
A newspaper editor I know of recently claimed not to know of any bookshops in Kigali. He was later informed that we actually do have some and that some big supermarkets like Nakumatt and Simba also sell books.
The bigger problem however is on the question of libraries.
The major difference between a bookshop and a library lies in the intentions of the people who go there.
The bookshop will be visited by those interested in buying and owning books while the library will have those interested in reading. The people who need libraries have got a reading culture while those in the bookshops may not necessarily have it.
Some people go to the bookshop to buy books as gifts, or to see which new books have been stocked. Meanwhile those who go to a library go their primarily to read.
In fact some of them go with their books to the library just to take advantage of the quiet atmosphere that makes reading possible.
Emphasis therefore ought to be on creating more libraries than bookshops. The initiative by KCC is just one of the commendable steps in that direction. However schools are expected to have their own libraries with the mobile library serving only as a supporting one.
It is also important to note that a school library should not just be stocked with text books. Text books do not promote a reading culture. Never.
All they do is to promote a culture of passing exams as they simply help a student to prepare for exams to be sat in the future.
A library ought to have a good number of story books laced with interested stories. Such books make the experience memorable compelling one to look forward to reading another book.
This is how a reading culture is bred. Newspapers and magazines must also be part of the library stock because they often offer light but very informative and educative reading experiences.
The only public library in Kigali (Kacyiru, close to the American Embassy) has been under construction ever since.
Although a good number of schools and higher learning institutions are having libraries, public libraries also play a crucial role. Reading should not stop once someone leaves the school system.
And like all aspects of education, charity always begins at home. To this end therefore, parents need to also stock a few books for what is often referred to as a “Home Library.”
The home library can have a few text books and several story books to encourage children to continue reading even when they are not at school.
Home or personal libraries are quite easy to make. All one needs is a small shelf where to keep the books. You do not have to go shopping for books to fill the home library.
Instead you can set your self a target of buying one book each month or even one in two months. By the end of the year, twelve or six books will be in your possession.
Before you know it you will have accumulated quite a number of books but more importantly, a sweet addiction to reading.
I have done this for close to three years and the results are amazing. With several libraries at school, public places and even at home Rwanda will become an intellectual society within no time.Follow https://twitter.com/ssojo81