A Great Investment: Intern Post by Marilyn Lewis
In 2012 I went to Kenya for the first time as an intern for Kenya Keys. While visiting with the staff of one of the primary schools in Taru, I mentioned that I was especially interested in libraries. The principal told me that they had a young man in Class 5—what we call 5th grade—who had read every book in the community library. Every book! The teachers wanted me to meet him, so someone went to his class and asked him to come and meet one of the women from Kenya Keys. I remember well the look on his face as he walked in to meet this old white Mama. It is entirely possible that I was the first white person he had ever spoken to and he was understandably nervous!
He answered my questions hesitantly until I asked, “What are you reading now?” He got a big grin on his face and pulled a book out of his back pocket. When I looked at the book, I discovered that it was part of a teen/young adult fantasy series written at a much higher reading level than an average 5th grader would read. Further, I knew that it was an incredibly high reading level for a young man, reading in his 3rd language, living in the Kenyan bush! And yes, he was reading it! He then started talking about his love of books. He had read all the Harry Potter series available in the community library and said that he hoped we had brought the rest of the series. And we had! I had a new friend—James!
In 2014 I went back to Taru, Kenya and was reacquainted with James—now a tall, confident 7th grader who still goes to the Community Library every day! The biggest difference is that now he takes his younger sister with him! As you might notice he was re-reading A Wrinkle in Time.
This last January I remembered that James would have completed Class 8 and taken the KCPE, which is the national test to determine if a student will be able to attend a secondary school and also what type of school he can attend. I wondered how this avid reader had scored so I sent an email to a member of the Kenya Keys staff in Taru to find out.
I was thrilled to learn that he had received a score of 370 out of a possible 500; he was #1 in his class and had been invited to attend one of the best high schools in Kenya paid for by the community government. To put that score into perspective, the average score for a boy who received a Kenya Keys sponsorship in 2016 was 312! James’s score was much higher than that.
Obviously he is a very smart young man, but I can’t help but think that his years of reading added to his success. Those trips to the Kenya Keys sponsored Community Library paid off.
Libraries are a “Great Investment.” Just look at my friend James!