“It’s the work of the librarians that make these spaces come alive as places for learning and literacy.” –Karen Sharkey, CODE Program Manager
I recently returned from a visit to eight community libraries in the Amhara and Oromia regions of Ethiopia with our country partner CODE Ethiopia.
I was excited to see the CODE Ethiopia community libraries in action. At the training in October, community librarians learned how to use tablets with local language early literacy apps created for the project by Ethiopian developers. We knew that the librarians felt comfortable with the tablets (see 'Fun With Tablets').
On this trip, I was thrilled to see that children in all of the libraries we visited were using the apps, having a great time learning important early literacy skills of letter and word recognition, building their vocabulary and strengthening their reading skills in their mother tongue.
The community librarians are passionate about the project and providing library service to their communities. Immediately after receiving the tablets, Almaz Achamyeleh from Durbetie, contacted the town crier, still the best way to spread news in her town, to promote the new service. She is the only librarian and during our visit, she calmly moved back and forth between the two busy library buildings, engaging with the kids and making sure that everyone took turns with the books and tablets, then heading back to the main building to help students find the books they need. We noticed that the kids, who were all Amharic speakers, were playing with an app in Afan Oromo, another Ethiopian language - having fun while also learning simple vocabulary to communicate with people in their neighbouring region.
The Fiche librarian, Engida Reta, met us on a Saturday when the library was closed. Minutes after he unlocked the door, three children, all library members, showed up. A few minutes later, two more showed up. We all went into the children’s area of the library where Engida had used every resource available to create a bright and lively environment in the small room.
He doesn’t just provide service in the library, he also goes to nearby primary schools where the kids use the apps and read books during his visits and has set up a system for parents to borrow the tablets to use at home.
The buildings are an important space to facilitate community literacy, but it’s the work of the librarians – engaging with children, families and schools, encouraging children to take books and tablets home, and providing a welcoming space - that make these places come alive to inspire learning and literacy.
CODE Ethiopia librarian, Engida Reta with children outside Fiche Community Library.
Help establish reading rooms and libraries in rural communities across Ethiopia by supporting the Reading Ethiopia program.