On the 5th of February when we visited Baptist Primary School to set up our first Reading Corner for the 10thAnniversary Book Drive Campaign, size really did not matter, when out of the 218 pupils on the assembly ground a diminutive 9-year-old boy, calmly walked out of the crowd and volunteered to read ‘The Lion and the Mouse’ to his peers. He took us on an emotional journey of an unlikely friendship between a Lion and a Mouse and we all learnt a valuable lesson that size does not really matter, especially when it comes to reading!
Books may be inanimate objects, but they make us feel all sorts of emotions; ranging from joy to sadness, to fury, to calm inspiration etc.; reading a book could make someone feel these emotions and more. Sadly, about 60% of children living in Nigeria may never have the opportunity to experience the emotions ignited by books because many of them cannot afford them or they do not have access to books! The Covid-19 guidelines and restrictions in 2020 resulted in millions of public primary school children losing a year of reading, creating amajor reading gap.
Keeping It Real (KIR) Foundation decided to set up 50 reading corners across the 36 states and Abuja the capital of Nigeria to commemorate our 10th Anniversary through a Book Drive Campaign. The Book Drive Campaign is aimed at closing the reading gap and providing access to books for children in underserved primary schools and or communities.
On the 5th of February 2021, we launched the campaign at Baptist Day Primary school in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State with 218 students in attendance. The event started with a musical interlude by the sensational Saxophonist, Pious Sylva aka Mr Ability, performed the National Anthem and some inspirational songs on his saxophone. The children and teachers were really amazed when he revealed that he is blind. He shared his inspiring story of living life as a blind youth and encouraged the students to continue improving themselves, through reading and continuous self-development. Finally, he advised them not to allow environmental factors put a limit on their aspirations.
Bitebo Gogo, the Volunteer Executive Director of Keeping It Real (KIR) Foundation, in her address, told the students that despite their family background or physical challenges, they could accomplish whatever they want to do in life so long as they were willing to learn and work hard. When she informed the pupils that the bookshelf, for the Reading Corner was donated by Mr. Elvis Jumbo an alumnus who attended the school about 50 years ago, the children were amazed. The bookshelf was filled with 150 storybooks and textbooks donated by KIR Foundation.
She read ‘The King’s New Clothes’, a timeless classic,which teaches about the dangers of pride and the courage to point out when someone older or more experienced is doing something wrong.
The major highlight of the event was when the 9-year-old boy; Clement Jackson a Primary 4 pupil, read ‘The Lion and the mouse’, to his schoolmates, teachers and guests.
“What’s so amazing about that?” You may ask? It was Clément’s first time of reading to a large number of people!! When we asked the students to volunteer to read to the school, Clement boldly came forward to do so. He started off shakily, but gradually, we were all lost in the story as he read bravely, the best way only he could, causing us to experience an eclectic mix of emotion!
The story which highlighted the fact that size does not matter and anyone can make a difference, was a perfect match for Clement who was able to handle such a nerve-wracking experience confidently, despite his small size. We gave five students including Clement, personal storybooks for answering questions correctly and actively participating in the Book Reading Exercise.
Afterwards, an excited Clement told the KIR Foundation team that;
“This is my first time receiving my personal storybook and reading to my schoolmates. Reading ‘The Lion and the mouse’ has taught me that I’m not too small to make a difference or show kindness.” – Clement Jackson, Primary 4 Student and recipient of a personal storybook.
While, the Head Teacher who was extremely grateful and overwhelmed said;
“The main reason children don’t read is that they do not have access to books. With the books, KIR Foundation has donated we will be able to reignite the reading culture in our pupils.” Mrs Blessing Briggs (Headmistress of Baptist Day School Aggrey Road.)