New Books Bring New Knowledge in West Africa

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Despite the afternoon heat, Iissa makes his way though his village, stopping at every residence. After the formal greetings, he announces that new books are in and invites everyone to his home to see them.

Iissa is the manager of the village library. It contains books from the Box Library, a joint literacy effort of Christian Reformed World Missions and the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee.

Iissa’s library currently has more than 40 books, including an alphabet book, books from the Bible, and booklets on topics such as child health, the use of medicine, the legal system, and common cattle diseases. The books are stored in a box made out of recycled metal barrels to prevent them from being damaged by blowing sand, termites, or moisture. This box is kept in Iissa’s home, and he manages the lending process.

In this community of 14 households, about 15 men know how to read. They are enthusiastic readers, devouring library materials. The more advanced readers have read most of the books and eagerly await new reading material.

CRWRC and CRWM staff members have written, translated, printed, or purchased the books since 1993. When a new book is completed or when materials have been purchased from another organization, a CRC staff member or partner brings the books to the villages they visit. Community library managers, such as Iissa, then make their rounds to share the good news. Currently CRWRC monitors and contributes books to 100 such village libraries.

“The goal of the Box Library program is to place box libraries in communities that have newly literate people, so that they have access to a variety of materials about topics of interest that are written in their language at their reading level,” explains a CRWRC West Africa team leader.

In a society where power is tied to knowledge, this community-based library is opening doors to everyone who can read.

“Readers are drawn to Iissa’s home to inspect the new books and borrow them, or to find an older book that interests them,” says a CRWRC West Africa team member. “Iissa’s home is a place where readers are given the space to share and discuss what they are reading.”

Note: Due to security risks in the region, the names and locations of CRC personnel in West Africa cannot be published here.

About the Author

Kristen deRoo VanderBerg was part of the World Renew Communications team from 1999-2016. She now serves as director of Communications & Marketing for the Christian Reformed Church.

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