There is a misconception that; “If you want to hide something from an African, put it in a book”. Also, there’s a widespread belief that young people do not like reading. However, during a leadership training for young people by KIR Foundation in Ajegunle, Lagos State in 2011, we discovered that the above statements are false!
We met young people who were eager to learn, read and expand their world of imagination through the pages of books but did not have access to books. The lack of access to books according to them was negatively impacting their academic performance and ability to learn new societal and abstract concepts. The coronavirus pandemic in 2020, further worsened the above situation because children in public schools were cut off from all educational activity for about 7 months, thus widening the already existing reading gap.
Therefore, to close the increasing reading gap in our public primary schools, KIR Foundation initiated the 10th Anniversary Book Drive Campaign. The aim of The Book Drive Campaign is to set up 50 Reading Corners in the 36 states of Nigeria and Abuja, the capital. The essence of the Campaign is to stimulate a reading culture among children in underserved and marginalised public/community primary schools like Daberechi. We believe that a child who imbibes the culture of reading at a young age will grow into an agent of positive change in society because readers are leaders.
On the 12th of February, 2021, the KIR Foundation team visited Daberechi’s school, Model Primary School 1, Azuabie to read to him and his 52 schoolmates and set up a reading corner to commemorate the International Book Giving Day 2021. In books like the ‘King’s New Clothes’ read by Emmanuel Macdonald, the KIR Foundation Programs Assistant children learn life-changing lessons, that enable them to be more responsible citizens of the world. During the reading session, Daberechi and his schoolmates paid rapt attention absorbing the lessons of humility, courage and speaking up for what is right regardless of whatever the masses say; allfrom a single storybook!
The lesson of courage was instantly tested and proven when the team asked the children what they had learnt from the story read to them. Most of them were so unsure of themselves and doubted if they could give the correct answer. However, 11-year-old Daberechi, a primary 5 pupil timidly stepped forward and in a shy but willing voice, answered the question correctly. She exploded with palpable joy when she received her first personal storybook! Her singular act of courage motivated her schoolmates to answer questions and 4 other pupils, like Peter, Bright, Precious and Boma also received their first personal storybooks.
The Headteacher of the school, Mrs Emmanuel Okujagu thanked KIR Foundation for the donation of the bookshelf filled with 155 books (135 storybooks and 20 textbooks). The teachers assured the KIR Foundation team that the 53 pupils of the school will be given access to the Reading Corner. The pupils were overwhelmed with happiness and unrestrained excitement, knowing that they could access all the interesting books.