June 11, 2014

Internet Before Computers - Why We Won’t Donate I.T. Without Connection

Although we have several different KEY Library Models, which include different kinds of resources in the library (some just books and furniture, others books, furniture and I.T.) we do try as much as possible to incorporate the I.T. model into our libraries. There is no question that we are in the Digital Age with a tremendous shift of information from print to digital. If a library’s purpose is to house information for people to access equally, then that too should include computers for which to access the internet. However, a problem encountered far too often in Kenya, and indeed all of Africa, is internet connection - there isn’t much of it yet, especially in rural areas. We place the onus on the individual schools to tap into government programs that set up internet connections, as well as put pressure on their local magistrates to bring connectivity to their communities. For us, if an internet connection is setup, we will always try to donate I.T. If there isn’t one, I.T. cannot be justified as its utility is almost entirely diminished. This naturally presupposes that electricity is also set up and consistently supplied - something that I have found can never be assumed.

June 11, 2014

Bad News For Outlaws - Great News For KEY!

One of my favorite parts of my job, and certainly one of the most satisfying, is to find a book that I had always been looking for, without even knowing it. Our book list is such a critical component of what we do, that we are constantly researching - trying to find yet missed titles to add to our collections, and thus to the libraries. I practically skipped for joy when I came across this book Bad News for Outlaws about Bass Reeves. He was a slave that became a US Marshall, and never failed to track down the perpetrators of crimes. I have found that most children and YA books that have African/African-American main characters are about slavery or segregation. Although these are incredibly important topics for the children in our libraries to learn about, I do try to find books of a variety of themes with Africans/African-Americans as main characters, so that ideas for them to identify with are not limited only to struggles. On top of that, I really struggle to find books like that for boys, with themes of adventure, heroes, cowboys etc. I can’t wait to order this book and add it to our libraries - what a great role model.

June 10, 2014

Why All Children Should Read Fairy Tales

I loved this blog post by the Scottish Book Trust, on why fairy tales are good for children. There has been a lot of debate over this recently, as Richard Dawkins (author of The Selfish Genea book we have included in our secondary school donations, by the way) was purported to have criticized the effect of fairy tales on children, but later said his meaning was misunderstood. The post is worth a read, but summarizes why they are good in five points:

1. They boost a child’s imagination and cultural literacy

2. They teach us right from wrong

3. They develop critical thinking skills

4. They can help children deal with emotions themselves.

5. They are great fun!

Fairy Tales is one of our larger, and also one of the most popular sections we include in our primary school libraries. It has always been cited by librarians as a section that draws reluctant readers to the library - and perhaps that should be a 6th reason.

June 7, 2014

Monitoring and Evaluation, Oh My

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We are commencing a very important phase for any NGO program - the monitoring and evaluation to assess the impact of our projects. Over the next few months we will be revisiting all of the schools we have donated KEY Libraries to so far, conducting surveys with all of the students, and then analyzing and interpreting the results. Our goal is to communicate these findings by the end of 2014. 

June 7, 2014

The Dreamy Fiction of Nicholas Sparks

It made me smile when while at Precious Blood doing surveys,  I came across this book, by Nicholas Sparks. We had only donated it 18 months ago, and I’m not sure how many more reads it will survive before the pages disintegrate. Apparently, it has been borrowed every single week since it was donated, making it one of the most popular books at the school. I remember, at that same age, devouring books like this (The Notebook, for example). Why? Because we all love to dream. We love to fall in love. We love to cry. We love to celebrate the victors and the downfall of the villains. Dreaming as a teenager shapes who you become. The mind is a refuge that gets you through life’s challenges. These kinds of books provide little alleyways of imagination for that very purpose.