From September 8th – September 13th, the Pobe-Mengao library had its first ever summer reading camp for primary school students. The week-long camp consisted of 25 4th graders (13 girls, 12 boys) randomly chosen from a class of 86. The camp’s goal was to help improve the students’ reading levels in a fun and welcoming environment. Sessions included reading activities, peer tutoring, storytelling, arts and crafts, song and dance, sports, instruction, and discussions on health, HIV/AIDS, malaria and life skills.
There were a couple decent readers but the rest were at an incredibly low-level. Five of the students could not read, write or recite the alphabet. The camp was led by Dounko the FAVL animator, Hamidou the librarian, myself, an assistant and one of the primary school teachers. The teacher was awesome and really worked closely with the students. Each of his lessons reflected errors he witnessed the students making throughout the day. We conducted evaluations—individual reading tests before and after the camp—and during the last tests we could see much improvement in the students. It was hard not to get emotional when Daouda, with a huge smile on his face, proudly recited the entire alphabet without error for the first time. As happy as I was, it was frustrating. I really only spent a total of about an hour or two with him individually, so that he understood the alphabet. It’s upsetting to think that at 12 years old, he’s been held back at has had such a disadvantage in school simply because no one took the one or two hours necessary to help him.
I thought the camp staff worked really well together. The teacher, Mr. Sawadogo, was awesome! His instruction sessions were straightforward, informative, and he made sure that his lessons focused on reading/grammar/spelling errors he noticed the students frequently making that very day. I was also pleased with Hamidou, the librarian. He is still relatively new and has a lot to learn but his efforts, hard work and motivation are obvious. During the beginning of the camp he seemed a little nervous about poking fun of himself, not wanting to lose respect in front of the children. But by the middle of the camp he was dancing and singing along with the children.
Throughout the week we had frequent visitors: parents, functionaries, older students, the Mayor and the Prefect. All came to witness the camp and offer words of encouragement. It was obvious that the community was really happy with the camp and are already asking that it continues every summer.
Asides from the camp, the library is doing very well. The building is in good shape, Hamidou has planted more plants and flowers and he has adopted a new kitten that lives in the library. Since the most popular library books are the “Aya de Yopougon” comic book series, the kitten is aptly named Aya de Pobe-Mengao.
A happy reader; Dounko reading a story to the kids
Pobe-Mengao Library, inside and out, during the reading camp.
Aya de Pobe-Mengao, who loves to sit/sleep on top of book.