There’s no denying the proud smile of nine-year-old Milimo as he checks out his first book from the new library at Batoka Primary School.
He has been anticipating this moment since his teacher, Ms. Muwemba, promised him he could take a book home if he kept coming to class.
“My favorite book is called Ncinzi cili mucibbokesi [What is in the Box?]” Milimo says as he takes the book from the shelf. “It’s about a box full of rats and everyone is wondering what’s inside. It’s very funny!”
There was a time when Milimo only came to class once a week. He would wake up in the morning when his mother called, but then he’d run off with his friends in the village to play soccer. And he wasn’t the only one. Ms. Muwemba had just started her teaching job and she was frustrated by how few students came to her class or showed an interest in learning.
Teaching became easier after Ms. Muwemba took Room to Read’s teacher training workshops that spring. “I was able to plan my lessons in advance, which made it easier for me to plan for pupils like Milimo,” she said. “I could take the time to make him comfortable enough to be hungry to learn.”
After that Ms. Muwemba noticed in Milimo a potential for learning she hadn’t seen before. She started encouraging him to come back the next day and the next. “Little by little he started showing up for class every morning,” she said.
Ms. Muwemba even came up with fun ways to encourage Milimo to stay in school. One day she promised to let him check out his favorite book from the new library Room to Read had just established with the help of the community.
“Even before then, I would prepare simple stories to share with the class every day,” she said. “This so ignited Milimo’s passion for storytelling that he ended up being the first one to get to school every morning just so he could listen to me tell a story.”
What came next surprised everyone. “Milimo’s grades at the end of the first term were not good at all, but by the second term Milimo made such an improvement that even the head teacher was and still is amazed at his performance!” said Ms. Muwemba, adding that Milimo is now intent on becoming a teacher.
“The boy you have just met checking out his first book in the library is nowhere close to the boy I met in first term.”
And what does Milimo, now proudly holding the first book he’s ever checked out of a library, have to say about it all?
“Thanks to education I am able to love school and I refuse to play soccer when I should be in class!” he says with a smile.
Millimo’s story is one of a collection of inspiring stories we’re celebrating as we reach 10 million children. Read more in our special Impact Report, Thanks to Education.
Find out more about Room to Read’s Literacy Program.
Learn more about how to get involved with Room to Read.