“A book is a wondrous thing. It can take you places you’ve never been and allow you to explore your imagination through ways not otherwise possible. Every person, man, woman, and child, should experience the joy of reading a book. Many people have asked how they can help with my service in South Africa. This project I cannot do alone and would love any help that can be offered. I am currently attempting to develop a library at the Primary School where I work. Their library consists of dust filled textbooks, broken tables, and no more than 30 reading books. We were recently able to get shelves, though we are seeking book donations in any way possible. The kids range from kindergarten to seventh grade. The seventh graders can only read simple books. Nothing more advanced than a fourth or fifth grade reader in the United States. We are looking into donors for large shipments abroad, however, they generally would like us to contribute the shipping fees. The school is unable to pay these fees, nor are the members of the village as they are just hoping to have enough money to buy food. Every new book gives a child a chance to read. During my lesson with my remedial fifth grade students yesterday a boy stopped me during the spelling test to tell me, “I want to read.” I hope he gets that chance soon.”
This is an excerpt from a letter written by Katie Roberts, a recent graduate of Cal State Northridge, who is now living and working in a little village outside of Jericho, South Africa, as a Peace Corps volunteer. Katie is doing everything she can to acquire books for the students in her school (“my learners,” she calls them), who are in desperate need of them.
The Siphumelela (“We Succeed”) project’s aim is to distribute books provided by Books for Africa, (books provided to Books for Africa by regular folks like you and me,) to rural primary and high schools in the Mpumalanga, Limpopo and North West Provinces.
Katie says, “There are a total of 10 Peace Corps volunteers involved, including myself, who are arranging for our schools to receive over 20,000 books, including story books, math books, science books, and English literacy books to improve the overall resources our schools are lacking due to the rural areas we live in...Thousands of students will benefit from the Siphumelela project by [being equipped with] the tools needed to speak, read, write, and understand English, which is a…fundamental skill these children need to excel in their studies and become productive members in South African society.”
We want to help Katie and her learners in any way we can, and hope you will be able to, as well.
A few days ago, I jokingly told a long-time customer, with whom I share a similar sense of humor, that I thought he was crazy for buying his books from us still, when he could get them at a fraction of the cost elsewhere. He didn’t get the joke though, and became suddenly and ferociously serious. “I want to have a local bookstore to go to. The price I pay for that is nothing compared to its value.” People like him remind me every day of the community we have here, and what an unbelievably awake, loyal and kind one it is. It is this fact alone that allows us now to ask for your help. We are your official drop-off location. Books that your children no longer read, that are on their way to Goodwill, or the library, or under the bed… simply bring them to us!
Please spread the word about Katie and her cause as far and wide as you can. Whatever shape or size your help comes in, it will be appreciated and prized by hundreds of children.