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the literacy ledgerReflections, findings, stories and the lowdown

The Girl in the Market

December 8, 2010 By

Augustina just minutes after getting her e-reader

If someone asks you to go hand out 440 e-readers, you might think that after, say 100, it could start to feel mundane.  On the contrary, every single time we handed a student an e-reader, it was as if we were handing someone raw power.   One of my favorite moments was when Barbara asked a class how many books could fit in the classroom.  When kids started yelling out “thousands!” she asked if they could carry all those books in their arms.  Of course they shook their heads no.  Then she said, “Today you will leave the room more powerful than when you came in….you will be holding an entire library in your hands!”

For documentation purposes, we took head shots of 400 children whose lives were changing at that very minute.  As I looked at the students who were holding power and possibilities in their hands, I wondered about where these e-readers were going to take them.  David wrote yesterday about the amazing teachers, and one thing we encourage teachers to do is to let the kids to take e-readers home with them so that the entire community benefits.   While we can monitor the effects of e-readers in the classroom, it is harder to measure how e-readers benefit the community as a whole.

Augustina in the market

One day after we had finished up in the classroom, we went into the market to grab some food.  Zev happened to look over and see a group of 5 kids clustered around something.  Upon closer inspection, we realized that it was one of our students, Augustina Kesewa at Adeiso JHS, reading The Monkey and the Crocodile to her friends.  It was a shining moment for us!  It’s the essence of what we are trying to accomplish—a culture of reading in a country where literacy rates are low.

The other day I wrote about how inspiring the 400 students participating in the pilot study were, but what about the millions of others who don’t have books?  At Kade Senior High a 17 year-old boy came up to me holding an e-reader.  I asked him how he was feeling, fully expecting to hear him say something along the lines of: “so excited about my new e-reader!”

“Very sad,” he said.  When I asked him why, he waved the e-reader he was holding towards the classroom where we had just spent the whole morning and said, “This is my friend’s e-reader… but I did not get one in my class. Am I not important?” he asked me angrily. “You are important–these students are selected randomly and if we can prove this works, many more will get e-readers,” I answered.  “It will be too late for me,” he said, “I graduate next year.”  I mentioned in a previous post that those kids stole a piece of my heart.  And I mean both Augustina, newly empowered and sharing her e-reader with friends in the market, and this boy whose name I sadly don’t know.  Worldreader is working hard for both of them.

Walking home more powerful than yesterday