Spreading the Joy of Reading

October 20, 2016 1:18 pm Published by

Something magical has happened at Joseph and Mary’s library in 2016- and I am not just talking about Zai’s love for Harry Potter (though that is pretty magical!).

First, a little background. JBFC offers quality, affordable education to our surrounding community, one of the central pillars in our holistic approach to development, through the Joseph and Mary school. From the littlest learners in pre-school through the young adults in Form 4 (equivalent of 11th grade), JBFC is changing lives and helping young Tanzanians reach their educational goals.

In order to help give our students a competitive advantage in what is fast becoming a global economy, Joseph and Mary students are taught all of their subjects in English from their first days on our campus. One of our favorite tools in helping our students learn English is to instill them with a love for books. In order to do so, JBFC has built an on-campus library and stocked it with over 3,700 books for book-lovers of all ages, thanks to our Book by Book Campaign. It’s the only lending library in our village, in fact the only library for miles around in any direction.

Joseph and Mary’s library has been popular with staff and students since its grand opening in the summer of 2013. But this year sparks have flown, light-bulbs have gone off, and Magic School Buses have started soaring beyond our wildest dreams.

At the end of last year and the beginning of this year, JBFC administrators and school staff began brainstorming ways to expand the impact of our library/literacy programs and to make our services more readily available to a broader section of our community. At the same time, visitors from Sarah Lawrence College in New York proposed the idea of starting a “Family Literacy Program” based on projects that they had run in various parts of the world in the past.

And, just like that, Joseph and Mary’s library became magic.

Since January’s push-start from Sarah Lawrence College professor Kim Ferguson, Joseph and Mary’s Dean of Students, Samo, has organized family literacy workshops for students and their families from six different grade levels at our school. Over the course of a five-week program for each grade, students and their primary caregivers attend a weekly Wednesday-night family literacy session at our library from 4:00pm to 6:00pm.

With the goals of promoting literacy at home, encouraging parents to actively participate in their children’s educations, and expanding accessibility to Joseph and Mary’s library, families gather together weekly for various story-telling games, art activities (bookmark making, for example), and a community dinner. Samo, along with our Literacy Coordinator and various classroom teachers, help instill parents and caregivers with the tools they need to support our students at home. On average, roughly 20 parents come per session, including many JBFC staff members.

Our students and their families aren’t the only people who have gotten a little bit of magic out of the Family Literacy Program. As part of their required community service for school, Joseph and Mary’s Form 2 students have played a major role in the development, implementation, and follow-up of the Family Literacy Program since its start. Assisting with everything from pre- and post-surveying, translation, food preparation, and even providing child-care to parents with young children, our Form 2 students have become experts in this community-based initiative.

Having completed the five-week program for pre-school, kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade, and Form 4, 2016 has been a successful year. Mr. Samo, Mr. Simon, and our Form 2 students, however, have a different idea. With the end of the year fast approaching, our Family Literacy Team will be completing the program for fourth graders and fifth graders in 2016 before picking up the program again next year.

One measure of the success of a program is the amount of community buy-in that it gets. On this point, our Family Literacy Program has been a home-run. I asked Samo, our Dean of Students and the person in charge of the program, what his favorite part was and got an immediate, playful chuckle from him. “The best part? The best part is to see the parents come, listen, and also realize ‘Oh! We are part and parcel in educating our kids!’”

If you are interesting in donating books or dollars to our Book by Book Campaign, please review the guidelines by clicking here!
Guest Blogger, Seth Diemond, is JBFC’s Chief Operating Officer in Tanzania. 

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This post was written by Mainsprings