BY VICTOR OCHIENG’
Anytime I visit Precious Blood-Riruta in Nairobi, I am always thoroughly thrilled by the rich reading culture cultivated in that top girls’ school. The pious Chief Principal – Sister Mary Wachira – is keen to maintain this rich culture that makes them stand out as the best among the rest. When you are in this school during the health breaks or times of Self Directed Activities (SDA), you will hardly see the girls sitting idle telling cock-and-bull-stories, gossiping or giggling as some girls do. Instead, in this school girls are focused like laser beams. Ideally, you will spot them walking or sitting in pairs, reading books. This is quite impressive because it is a component of stupendous study skills we have been imploring students to be prone to.
Somehow, students who brood on books eventually manage to pass in KCSE with a lot of ease. On this, it should never be lost on us that children who read will be adults who think. Neil Geiman also observed, “the simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means that finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to those books, and letting them read them.” You must have heard about this: that in this world with plenty of people, only 5% think, 15% think they are thinking, and 80% do not think at all. Critical and creative thinking life skills that are honed through reading, are lacking in several adults who perhaps only read books when they have a date with exams.
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Maybe, that is why we should find wonderful ways to make our children find reasons to read books for the sake of skills enhancement and personal development. As an English enthusiast from Lake Lolwe, this is something I cherish like fish. It is what compelled me to collect sufficient information about how the girls at Precious Blood-Riruta manage to read with avidity. I did this sacrosanct assignment after addressing the Form One Class on Starting Strong. The Deputy Principal, Mrs. Mokaya, and the HoD Guidance and Counselling, Sister Veronica – shared insightful information on how they have been cultivating the rich reading culture. These are Best Academic Practices that can work well in other schools.
Foremost, there is no way we can have a rich reading culture in our schools when our libraries are bereft of books. As it is done at Precious Blood-Riruta, it is incumbent upon school arrowheads to find ways to stock the library with a wide variety of books. Apart from availing core-course books, our libraries should be rich repositories of classics, class readers, self-help books and sacred texts. This can be achieved through initiatives like book harvests. This is important because even in any dinner, a variety of yummy meals are served so that guests get the chance to choose food purely based on preference. This notion can be understood better when we press the pause button and reflect on wise words of Francis Bacon: “Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested; that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read, but not curiously; and some few are to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.”
Again, a school can have all manner of books but still suffer from paucity of passionate readers because learners have not been guided properly on how to read. Therefore, it behooves teachers of the compulsory languages (English and Kiswahili) to train learners on how to read by making good use of sporadic library lessons. It is also important to note that in order to encourage learners to visit the library to savour books, it is advisable that we borrow a leaf from Precious Blood-Riruta. A philanthropist like Dr. Manu Chandaria has helped the school to equip its bookstore as a way of aiding it to meet its prime purpose.
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In addition, selecting students to constitute the Library Council, injects a lot of sense and significance to the existence of functional libraries in our schools. For instance, in Precious Blood-Riruta, there are students who basically control the affairs of the library during stasis from lessons. They are the students who run and regulate borrowing of books. They also spruce up and organise the reading bays in the library. They also make the place look pacific and conducive for concentration, reading and retention.
Over and above, reading requires a lot of motivation. Motivation is defined as motive to action. It is to turn on, ignite a feeling or action. It can either be extrinsic or intrinsic in nature. Without motivation, people hardly find reasons to do some things in life. In nutshell, I realised that some students read widely because of the factor of motivation. The daughter of the late Hon. Nicholus Biwot has viable book projects in schools like Precious Blood-Riruta, Starehe Girls and St. Patrick-Iten, where students are encouraged to read and write riveting reports. Then, they are awarded based on categories of gold, silver and diamond. Avid readers get money plus recognition.
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