Reading Club

It took me a while to discover our school library.  We have a couple of shelves filled with books (most of which have been donated from America).

I wanted to start a reading program last term but had no idea how to go about it.  My students love to read but cannot read.  How do I develop a reading program that students between the ages of 3 and 20 would enjoy?

Do I use a reward system?

Do I encourage them to write a book report (with guided templates)?

Do I read a book to them?

Do I encourage them to convey ideas of stories they have read through drawing and drama?

Do I target the whole school of 90 kids or just one class?

I discussed my ideas with a fellow teacher first term and he bought up a very good point.  Many of the books that our school has are from America which means there’s some cultural confusion.  Books in America are written very differently than books here in Kenya.  I’m generalizing here but stories in America tend to be more abstract and unrealistic whereas stories in Kenya tend to be more realistic and has to do with daily life/struggles/joys.

I tried to find books in Kenya that my students would enjoy.  I struggled with finding books that were written at the appropriate reading level that had a lot of illustrations.  There simply aren’t many books here in Kenya written by Kenyans for children (if there are, I haven’t seen them).

Second term then rolled around and I decided to try to set up the reading program.  Once again I found myself getting too wrapped up in the logistics of things and I was making things too structured.  Finally I decided to just jump in with both feet and let my students lead me.

I spoke with the deputy headmaster and was assigned the duty of being an “assistant librarian”….I didn’t even know we had a librarian.  Only three people at the school have keys to the room and I’m not one of those three.  However, yesterday I was finally shown where the spare key is kept…yay!!  Baby steps….now I don’t have to hunt down people to get the library unlocked and it doesn’t stay locked when I can’t find people.

The deputy headmaster did ask that I keep the number of kids to only 3 since we have 3 chairs and his office is in the same room.  3 kids out of 90…ehmm yeah I decided to bend the rules a bit and limit it to 5 kids at a time.

Books are not to leave the library, I understand the reasoning behind that. There have been a lot of problems with kids losing books and tearing books.

The library has been off-limits to the kids for so long that they’re scared they’re going to get into trouble for being in there….one girl even tried to close the library door yesterday so she “wouldn’t get caught.”  I kept telling them that I had permission to be in the room and if I was there then they could be in there and they wouldn’t get into trouble.

I have been kind of keeping this on the lowdown because I don’t know how I’m going to say no whenever we have more than 5 kids who come to the library.  I have such a hard time refusing kids books…….

I have set it up to where I will be in the library for at least two hours a day during the week (lunch and after school) that way it doesn’t interfere with other classes during the day.  I’m working on seeing how well I can access the library on the weekends.

Once the excitement wears off then I may start something a bit more structured with some fun activities.

In the meantime I’m loving seeing the joy on my students’ faces when they open up a book.

Yes, they have very limited reading abilities.  Yes, they struggle to understand what they’re reading.  Yes, there are cultural confusion with some of the American books.


They LOVE it.  They absolutely LOVE it.

They want to read so badly and they want to learn about the world so badly.    Generally, they will look at pictures in the book and will ask questions.  I will then answer the questions and point out a key common word that helped me answer that question.  Or I will ask them questions about what they think is happening in the pictures and will try to guide the discussions so that I can point out some recurring key words throughout the book.

For example, when looking at a book of snakes….if someone asks me if a certain snake is deadly….I will tell them yes that particular snake is deadly because of the word “venomous.”  I then find another snake that isn’t deadly and point out the word “nonvenomous” in the paragraph.  Whenever they ask if another snake is deadly, I then encourage them to look for either the word “venomous” or “nonvenomous” in the paragraphs.

Class 7 girls who are 16-18 year old cannot read the words “smoke” or “toe.”  They may be able to show you the sign or spell it out….but they do not know what it is.  Again, it’s amazing how much they want to learn.

I’m a bit nervous about today’s library hours because I explained it to Classes 4 and 5.  The last few days I’ve just been grabbing a few random kids as they pass by.  I’m just hoping that not all 14 kids from Classes 4 and 5 will come all at once.  How am I going to tell 9 kids that no, they can’t read books?  How am I going to keep them from fighting each other?

Hopefully the fact that it’s more of a come-and-go thing will make it easier….

I basically have no clue what I’m doing but my students are teaching me (more than I am teaching them)…….

If anyone has any ideas/resources….that would be faboo!

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