Our Reading Spaces
These days my favorite reading space is on my front porch, in a fading white wicker chair, tucked in the corner. I think a mama bird is building a nest in the eaves of the porch. I try not to disrupt her early morning ritual on Saturday and Sunday, when I come out to read, and to listen to all of those songbirds singing songs of sunrise.
The two gold variegated Leyland Cypress trees flanking the entryway are running out of room to grow; but they look beautiful at Christmas time. And I like the way the two giants (Kibo and Mawenzi) dwarf the space, reaching beyond limits to a world of unlimited sunshine and red clay.
As a child, one of my favorite reading spaces was under one of the three large windows in our living-cum-dining room in the home that doubled as Paa Ya Paa Art Gallery.
Imagine what it looked like before the fire...
I also thoroughly enjoyed laying outside on a blanket under one of the many Jacaranda trees. I did not visit the Nairobi Public library much back then, as my high school library housed all of the reading materials I needed. And having an author for a mother meant that my brother and I were often treated to trips to her favorite bookshop in town; to this day my favorite scent is the fresh smell of a new book!
Our reading spaces are important, and some of us have a huge variety of options to choose from. More importantly, we do not suffer from book famine. However, there are millions of children in poor rural communities all over the world, whose parents are forced to prioritize other necessities above education.
To some extent I agree with Dambisa Moyo and her provocative argument on Why Foreign Aid Is Hurting Africa "...African countries repay debt at the expense of African education and health care...," says Moyo. And we have all heard Nelson Mandela's famous quote: "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."
I have a friend who is committed to making a difference. Irene Mbari-Kirika is Founder and Executive Director of Our Reading Spaces, a non-profit organization whose primary purpose is to provide welcoming and comfortable spaces for children and adults to pursue reading activities in rural Kenya.
"I realize that time may have moved on, but for so many people the economic conditions of twenty years ago are the same." (Mbari-Kirika)
Our Reading Spaces is currently in the fundraising and construction phase for their inaugural project -- the Kairi Library/Community Center in Thika District of rural Kenya. The building will be located in the heart of Kairi village, within 400 metres of the village center and within walking distance of several area schools. It will be designed to accommodate 200 people, and will be outfitted with electrical power and sanitary facilities.
I am excited to share that Barnes & Noble nationwide has teamed up with Our Reading Spaces for a book fair fundraiser running from April 27 through May 3, 2009. Click here for the Barnes & Noble voucher for use during this time; a percentage of proceeds will be donated to Our Reading Spaces beneficiary schools in Kenya:
Thika School for The Blind Primary
Thika School for The Blind Secondary
Rachel Dep's Childrens Orphanage in Thika (34 children)
Thika General Hospital - Children's Wing
Kairi Village Mobile Library Service (circulating books among 6 schools)
In addition, if you are in the Atlanta area, there are special activities planned around the fund raiser.
Saturday May 2, 2009
Swahili Story Time - 11:00 a.m.
Kenyan Traditional Dancers - 1:30 p.m.
Barnes & Noble, BUCKHEAD
2900 Peachtree Road NE, Suite 310, Atlanta, GA 30305
Kenyan Traditional Dancers - 3:00 p.m.
Barnes & Noble, CAMP CREEK
3685 Market Place Blvd, East Point, GA 30344
Here is a wonderful opportunity to purchase a book and contribute to the promotion of literacy in rural populations of Kenya.