Imagine being taught to read but not to have books to read, not knowing the sheer pleasure of opening a book at home and reading story after story.
Much is said in support of libraries for school children and disadvantaged communities. Supporters could do well to take a leaf out of the book of the Franschhoek Literary Festival (FLF) School Library Project.
Encouraging the love of reading has always been an objective of the FLF, as has library access for the community. In October 2012 they launched their School Library Project and employed a qualified librarian, Margie Cunnama, to manage it.
The aim is “to improve school libraries in the valley and supply them with new leisure books to inspire regular reading.” Access to the internet in computer rooms at schools provide opportunities for research and study, but not books for leisure reading. This is where a library fits the bill.
Margie has streamlined the library facilities at the schools and selected age-appropriate mother-tongue fiction to stock the shelves. The emphasis is on reading for pleasure. She insists there should be enough books so that every child can take home a book to read. Arrangements are made with the teachers of classes to have a fixed library period for the learners to visit the library, take out books and enjoy story time.
The five schools involved so far are Dalubuhle Primary, as Xhosa and English medium school; Groendal Primary, Wemmershoek Primary and Wes-Eind Primary, Afrikaans medium schools; and Franschhoek High School, an English and Afrikaans medium school which includes a primary school. They each received more than 300 new books and will receive more in future.
A generation of young people in Franschhoek is learning to enjoy reading and to improve their lives by their own efforts because someone cares enough to give them books.
- Siegfried Schafer