sweet ayliana

As the library at Polo Grounds Community Center in Harlem unfolds, I am realizing more and more how creating a library is not only creating a culture of reading, but it is also creating a culture of love, trust and deep support.  Each day, I enlist the help of the children of the community.  They come in small groups, or on their own, and help me sort through new books, group them into sets, label them and set them on the shelves of their emerging community library.  They own the process of creating their own reading environment, they respect it, they love it.  All the while, while labeling and sorting, the children share their lives with me and I treasure this time so greatly – the thoughts and insights of children – what could be more wise or pure?  Ayliana, my sweet friend pictured below, stayed with me for an hour and a half yesterday, diligently working, happily sharing, sitting with me, side by side.  As we worked, we shared our dreams with one another.  We talked about things that make us happy, things that inspire us, our hopes and sometimes our fears.  I learned she is a fabulous dancer, she loves her family, she is an amazing artist, she prefers love to shouting.  We became great friends in the ninety minutes we spent together and realized how many things we have in common.  Regardless of age, our dreams and interests are the same.  Not only did Ayliana help to prepare her own community library, she also helped remind me once more the importance of listening to a child, of being a friend.

The exciting work unfolding at the Polo Grounds is a collaboration with the amazing organization, LitWorld: www.litworld.org


Remsy

Yesterday, while working on the LitWorld Initiative (www.litworld.org) to set up a community library for the  Polo Grounds Community Center in Harlem, I had the great pleasure of having some great help from Remsy.  He had volunteered to come down from his after-school class and help me prepare new books.  He was the only one that wanted to come and help and I was so lucky that it was he who wanted to be there with me.  Quiet at first, and serious about doing his work, he quickly warmed up to me and my quirky comments on everything about life.  I considered myself so very lucky to not only have much needed help in preparing the books, but also to have the opportunity to get to know this child and have him share his life with me.  I asked Remsy for his opinion on our book order selection for adolescents.  Did he think other boys would like to read books about sports, mysteries or scary stories?  Did he think that it was a good idea to have books in Spanish at our library?  What kinds of books did he most like to read?  Why?  He told me he loves to write stories; he likes writing the stories about his own life.  I told him I would love to read them. Over the course of an hour, Remsy shared his thoughts and ideas with me and worked very hard to help me.  He took the time to be with me and he reminded me again and again of the importance in spending one-on-one time with a child, letting them know that their thoughts are important, that they themselves are important.


Friends & Books

The children at the Polo Grounds Community Center in Harlem, New York, begin to immerse themselves in the endless joy of a good book.  We are helping LitWorld set up a little library for this community.  Its been an empowering experience for all. This photo represents why we do what we do, why we fight for all children (and adults) to have access to books and education.  This photo represents the sheer excitement, and the deep bonding effect, which can come from the simple act of reading.

For more information on the wonderful organization, LitWorld, please visit their website: www.litworld.org


The Little Library at Red Rose School, Kibera, Kenya

The name Red Rose brings to mind a blossom, a burst of color, a fragrant symbol of beauty and life.   And the little Red Rose School is all of the above.  It represents love,  tender fragility, opportunity and most importantly, hope.  To find a bright red rose amidst the dusty, ramshackle streets of Kibera, the sprawling slums of Nairobi, is truly a reward.  The happy children at this school beam with pride, they marvel at the gift of learning.  They take nothing for granted and are incredibly thankful for the little that that have.  Wearing their bright red uniforms, the girls and boys at this small school, made out of scraps of metal and tin, are all roses and I felt honored to surround myself in their warmth during my stay in Kibera.

Our trip to Red Rose School was multi-purposed.  I was fortunate to travel to Kenya with the amazing New York -based npo, LitWorld (www.litworld.org) – an organization that works with different communities around the world to promote global literacy.  We worked with LitWorld’s empowering Girls Club, we popped into classes and taught children, we shared new books with children and teachers, we also shared ideas, laughter and smiles, too.  A special LitWorld initiative was to set up the Red Rose School’s first library.  Shelves were made by local craftsman in Kibera, children helped us sort through new books.  They helped us label them and organize each and every single one of them.  With lots of help, we were able to achieve the incredible task of setting up the little library in just two little days.  These photos are small symbols of the treasure that the library represents to this glorious community of children and educators.

“We want the library to be nice and to have many storybooks so that many people may read them and understand English.  For me, I want to read the storybooks so that I can reach for my dreams.  My dream is to become a journalist and my dream is very great and it must come true.  If we have a library with many books, we will always be happy and achieve our dreams.” – Emelda, age 12

Children perusing new books, while helping us group them into sets and label them.

The sweet pleasure of a good read.

Proudly standing in front of her new library.