Issue 47: Helping the World Read

A PROJECT SUPPORTED BY THE JANE AUSTEN LITERACY FOUNDATION

This year the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation has been raising money to buy new e-readers and an e-library for Suhum MA Experimental C School in Ghana. Worldreader (our partner for this project) supports literacy across the region and CEO and co-founder David Risher recently visited for the launch of Ghana’s National Reading Day. 

This wonderful article by author Lucy Beresford gives us all a greater insight into the impact literacy can have in these children’s lives and why we chose to work with Worldreader on this project.

We have raised 77% of the funds needed to buy the e-readers and the e-library for the Suhum School – only £2,700 to go!  If you would like to make a donation and help us reach our target, click HERE. 100% of your donation will be spent on the project and all donors receive a free personalised bookplate with your name in Jane Austen’s handwriting.

Caroline Jane Knight

JALF Founder & Chair

‘I want to be a writer,’ declares Patience Ngame to me, after the main Q&A is over. The teenager grins broadly. She has already asked me a question in front of all her friends, proving that she has bags of confidence and is eager to seize life. I have just given a short talk to her and her friends about my life as a novelist. Now she has taken me aside for some one-to-one advice. ‘There’s only one way to become a writer,’ I reply, ‘and that’s to write something every day.’

This compelling teen is one of around 70 girls who meet in a room in a flat-roofed brick building in the Nima slum where they live, in Accra. Under the nurturing eye of Amadu Mohammed, these girls get to learn, bond and grow at classes run by Achievers. Achievers Ghana is a nonprofit, nonpolitical, nonreligious organisation with a very simple mission: to provide education for all girls in slums across Ghana.

Achievers started with a girl called Amina who, despite excelling at school, was forced into marriage at the age of 12. In 2011, she co-founded the Achievers Ghana to help prevent similar situations affecting other young girls in her community.

 
 Participants at Achievers Ghana.  Credit: Lucy Beresford

Participants at Achievers Ghana. Credit: Lucy Beresford

 

I was visiting Achievers with David Risher, CEO and co-founder of Worldreader, to see for myself the inspiring work Amadu and his team do. Worldreader delivers e-readers loaded with novels and textbooks to schools around the world, to improve literacy outcomes and change attitudes around not just reading but, in the case of the slum, expectations about the life opportunities for girls.

While we were there, we watched a final rehearsal of the student-devised play "The Importance of Reading". The story they told about women being married off so young was sad to see, but the actors were very funny too and the piece was very well-observed. The following day, this play was performed in front of an invited gathering of around 100 people in the British Council building in Accra, for the launch of Ghana’s National Reading Day.

This launch event was exhilarating. As well as the performance of the play, David Risher gave the keynote address, followed by words from the Worldreader Director of West Africa, Carol Williams, on the objectives of Worldreader to promote reading culture in every household in Ghana and beyond. I also met the Minister for Inner City and Zongo Development, Dr Mustapha Abdul-Hamid, and Mrs Matilda Amissah-Arthur, former Second Lady of the Republic of Ghana.

Hilariously, the politicians and I also rubbed shoulders with Okyeame Kwame who is Ghana’s top rapper! He, along with his gorgeous, talented two young children, launched the brilliantly catchy song ‘Read’:

My trip to Ghana opened my eyes to how Worldreader is really making a difference on the ground, especially in Ghana partnering with the Ministry of Education. The Ghana District Scale project aims to reach nearly 90 primary schools, send 4,950 e-readers, use a whopping 495,000 e-books and help 45,000 students. Worldreader also aims to train 700 teachers in both how to use the technology and also how to motivate their students and the parents too. Not only does the work of Worldreader empower kids through reading, it changes lives and I was thrilled to be able to see this for myself.

At the end of the National Reading Day event, Patience came up to me and gave me her contact details. Just two women, swapping writing ideas and phone numbers, meeting as equals. If she can see beyond the confines of her upbringing and create a different future for herself, you just know there are other girls out there who can do the same, with the right encouragement – and a Worldreader e-book in their hand.

 Lucy Beresford with Okyeame Kwame.  Credit: Lucy Beresford.

Lucy Beresford with Okyeame Kwame. Credit: Lucy Beresford.

© Lucy Beresford - writer, broadcaster and psychotherapist. You can find her on Twitter.

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Want to change the world? Help us reach our target and buy e-readers and an e-library for Suhum MA Experimental C School - our Ghana Project, in partnership with Worldreader.

Image credits: Lucy Beresford and Julia B Grantham.