LIBRARIES AND READING PROGRAMMES IN SCHOOLS

[notice noticeType=”attention” ]genreDeveloping literary arts in Zambia-focus on fiction writing LIBRARIES AND READING PROGRAMMES IN SCHOOLS Two significant people have unreservedly impacted my reading culture; my mother who for the most part of my childhood made it a point that I read to her every evening, after which I would spiral into a spellathon, a solo contest that was reinforced with a wooden stick that would rise and fall at any slight faltering over a word or a sentence. Then came my teacher of English, an Irish nun (God rest her soul), who took over the ‘torturous’ duty in the final years of my high school. For the most part the latter, took us to the school library to read and do a lot of book maintenance- absurd then but a profound foundation that has taught me that it is possible to create and develop a reading culture in Zambia and that a school library and a reading programme play a cardinal role in this process. The question still arises; why do we have so many high school graduates with very poor reading culture or those that cannot read at all? Times have changed, agreed; for instance, we have many children who prefer to slouch on a couch in front of a television the whole day- what for most parents has become the new ‘baby sitter’. These graduates come from public schools as well as private schools; in fact from some private schools which have’ well stocked’ libraries and ‘high profile’ reading programmes. If a school has a library and it is highly recommended, it should not be used as the extra room for teaching optional subjects; neither should it be a place where children sit because teacher X is absent. In any school orientation programme, the library must come as one of the top three places where a learner must spend much time, apart from the computer laboratory and the classroom. Apart from including the library on the main time-table, children’s interest in this special room should be cultivated so that they are self-driven to make use of it even outside classroom hours. Unfortunately, even where a school has a library, there is no dedicated person to carry out this noble task. Where teachers are overloaded with teaching time, the library becomes an extra-curricular activity that is taken up once in a while. If value is placed on a library from the early days of a child’s education, they will carry it into adulthood. It is here that value for books and reading are learned. Even in schools without libraries, the improvised space, such as the library corner can instill valuable lessons on reading. What about reading programmes? Parents are usually very excited when their children come home and they can read the basic words – two or three or four letter words. The phonic reading programme is very popular in many schools; unfortunately, very few and I mean very, very few schools have dedicated reading programmes after pre-school. Apart from the reading card that father or mother or whoever signs, nothing and no time is dedicated to reading. I attended Holloway Primary School, Poona India where reading was strict. For example, in addition to my mother signing the reading card (and she did so very religiously), the teacher would re-enforce by carrying out random spelling activities and having us narrate the story in front of the whole class. You can only imagine what happened if you did not read. Do parents have a role in developing their child/ward’s reading culture? Yes and again yes! No one is more interested in your child’s education than you are. If we are headed ‘Toward a Zambian Genre’, then parents, schools and communities must forge partnerships that will provide a structure for children to love reading. Children should not just be drilled to read for an examination. [/notice]

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