In Malawi, most primary schools have low levels of reading that affect learners' comprehension and transition to higher levels. Evidence also suggests that learners who do not attain reading proficiency skills by the fourth grade are at a higher risk of struggling academically and even dropping out of school, contributing to the community’s high illiteracy rates. eKitabu seeks to address this challenge by promoting reading and utilization of content in formats that appeal to various learners including those with disabilities. eKitabu implements Book Talks as one way of promoting content utilization of both local and international authors and publishers.
The eKitabu Malawi team, in collaboration with the Malawi National Library Services (NLS), held a Book Talk session in Lilongwe on 3rd June 2023, reading the Does Your Father Snore storybook by Kathy Luckett and Nyimbo ya Lireni storybook by Peter Khomani, held at the National Library Service Headquarters with learners from Msambachikho, Chimwala, and Malingunde primary schools.
Learners from Malingunde School for the Blind in Lilongwe revealed that they found the Book Talk session quite interesting and they were really happy that they also had time to socialize with their fellow learners from other schools. They expressed their desire to get more involved in Book Talks and learn more about how to use the computer.
“We were so happy. We thought people do not think about us. We need more opportunities to have access to more braille books in the library as we only had a few braille books available.” Joyce Adam, a class 4 learner at Malingunde School for the Blind in Lilongwe.
eKitabu’s collaboration with the National Library Service in Malawi brought together learners with disabilities to participate in the Book Talk session while ensuring every learner is accommodated and feels comfortable to participate in the reading session. Moderators and interpreters also engage the learners to ensure there is full participation.
“I thought being blind makes us a burden to others but the Book Talk program showed that people can rely on us during reading sessions. We could read in front of our friends and also listen to other stories.” Mike Samson, class 4 learner at Malingunde School for the Blind in Lilongwe.
The Book Talks session by eKitabu aimed at promoting and building the brand of authors and publishers as well as building a reading community and encouraging the participation of learners with and without disabilities to read, and drive utilization by promoting engagement with the content.
“The event was good. The blind learners were included in all activities including storytelling. The library should have more braille books so that blind learners should also have a wider choice of books to ensure more inclusion. Libraries should be more inclusive.” Mrs. Chrissy Mateyu, The specialist teacher from Malingunde School for the Blind.
The Malawi National Library Services (NLS) vision is to become a world-class library while ensuring that Malawians have access to educational, training, recreational, and information management materials and resources. It serves a large community of members and users. Through its services, the library has created a space where students from all levels, academicians, researchers, and all interested stakeholders can access books from all disciplines and a quiet space for them to read.