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In Zambia, Westwood Basic School Builds a Habit of Reading by Bringing Parents to the Table

March 15, 2013

Literacy Zambia


In 2010, Westwood Basic School in Zambia’s rural Kafue province got its very first library. Everyone was excited about the new resources—especially the Teacher-Librarian, Ms. Nalumaba. But in 2011, it was clear that there was still a long way to go in inculcating the habit of reading among the students and the community in general. In order to address this need, our team called together parents and community members for a meeting to discuss some of the challenges at hand.

A few of the issues that came to light were the busy lives of both students and parents, widespread adult illiteracy and—to a certain extent—lack of engagement by teachers. Our team explained the Room to Read vision and strategy, and encouraged the parents to take an active role in their children’s education. Recommendations at the close of the meeting included a commitment to closer communication between the school and parents as well as commitment from parents to encourage their children to borrow books from the newly-established library.

Recently, our team returned to Westwood Basic School for one of our regular visits and was pleased to see a great deal of progress since that meeting just a year and a half ago. Library usage is higher than ever, and an increasing number of students are borrowing books. Several community-members are actively involved in running the library and reading with children there, and teachers are utilizing it for class time.

Beyond the walls of the school library, things have changed dramatically as well, with many homes in the surrounding area having established mini “library corners” since the meeting in 2011. The N’gambi family is one example. Mr. and Mrs. N’gambi maintain a library corner in their home and, after noticing a passion for drawing in their daughter, Jessica, purchased a drawing book to add to their collection.

Nearby, the Meyembe family has had a similar experience. Their 12-year-old daughter, Yosiya, is a 7th grade library prefect. Her parents are both on the community’s School Library Committee and often borrow books from the library themselves. Mrs. Meyembe, who just completed 12th grade herself, says her children’s performance in school has improved as their participation in the library management has increased. Like the N’gambi family, the Meyembes also maintain a library corner in their home to encourage evening reading.

Learn more about our work in Zambia.