In early 2009, MN volunteer Rachel Durfee asked family and friends to donate “A Book and A Buck” to establish a lending library for our students in Kenya. A group of travelers hand-carried 200 books to Nairobi and with “200 bucks” bought library supplies such as cards and pockets to insert in each book and plastic crates to store and transport the books to Saturday Program, creating a mobile NRCF library.
In December 2015, with donations from Nairobi and Minnesota, a milestone was reached: the 2,000th book was added to the library.
The NRCF now houses the library in a dedicated space that doubles as a conference room.The room features shelves categorized by early readers, fiction, African literature, and non-fiction, including biographies, references, and revision books. A large table in the room, surrounded by chairs, allows students to explore various subjects like art and zebras.
In addition to books, the library is a modern multi-media resource for our students. It now boasts three kindles (the first of which was donated by Tarpon Springs FL student Gabriella Kennedy for a school project), board games (Scrabble, Mancala, Candyland Bingo, Legos, and Chutes & Ladders are particular favorites), and DVDs (shown at camp and at gatherings during school breaks). In addition, paper and markers are available for students to illustrate and write about themes discovered in a special book they’ve read.
The library is open all day Monday to Friday. Nelson Mandela Academy, a partner school, sends its students to the library daily and NRCF also shares the library with students from other neighboring partner schools like Jagiet Academy. Boarding school students heavily use the library during school breaks and Saturdays, with selected books brought for the Saturday Program.
NRCF distributes early readers’ books to children in grades one to three for personal possession. The students were grateful and excited to receive their very own book – a first and only for most of them.
Why the Library Is Important
Kenyan English-based schooling improves children’s performance on standardized exams by increasing their English language skills. This in turn helps them with their school (and ultimately career) placement. The library offers Swahili books, but they’re not as popular as English, especially among younger readers. However, books about or taking place in Africa are quite popular.
As in the United States, reading allows children to escape to other worlds fueling their imagination and creativity. NRCF students realize global concerns, challenges, and interests through reading, highlighting shared interests and challenges among students worldwide. Through the many non-fiction books, they are able to learn about history, science, nature, geography, and other topics. Reference books aid students in understanding specific subjects and improving their English reading and writing skills.
Librarian Norah Keya
Volunteer caseworker Norah manages the library. She assists students in selecting books, encouraging them to read more by favorite authors or try new ones. They can borrow books for various durations, including weekly, two-week, or monthly readings, browsing shelves, or visiting the library. At any given time, approximately 50 books are checked out.
Norah has partnered with Kelvin Thuku, the head of NRCF’s computer lab, to create an online library management database. Library inventory manages book check-outs and ins, providing Norah with information on book numbers, names, ownership, and time stamps. From this, she is able to tell which books are most popular which guides the search for books in the U.S.
Help to expand the library
NRCF library has used books for up to seven years, featuring popular series like The Magic Tree House, Junie B Jones, Hardy Boys, and Babysitters Club.
If you have books of interest to readers from ages seven to college age, consider donating them to FONR. Non-fiction books guide post-secondary students in career paths and college/university courses, making them valuable resources for career guidance.
FONR supporters held book drives at Creek Valley Elementary School and Lommen Abdo law firm in Edina and Minneapolis, respectively. We would welcome additional book drives – perhaps a youth group, classroom, or workplace project. All books are hand-carried to Kenya therefore, required to be current, good condition, and student interest.