The Tale of Two Brothers

September 12, 2013 By

A few weeks ago, two brothers, Sebastian and Julien, joined the Worldreader Vacation Reading School team of volunteers. Like Lauren, they arrived wide-eyed and were excited about helping kids in Ghana–many of whom now have Kindles in their schools and can access hundreds of digitized African and international books–read more and read better.

Being close in age to the Ghanaian kids they were interacting with, Sebastian and Julien got it: Kids in Africa are excited about learning, and books are a way for kids everywhere to improve their lives.

Here’s how their trip went and what they learned along the way, in their words and photos.

Sebastian

Hello. My name is Sebastian, and I live in the United States of America. I am 14 years old and I am a student going into the ninth grade. I wanted to volunteer for Worldreader because I wanted to give the kids in Ghana a chance to learn to read, and furthermore a chance to do more with their lives.

Sebastian, a 14-year-old volunteer (middle), talks to kids in Ghana during Worldreader's Vacation Reading School.

Sebastian, a 14-year-old volunteer (middle), talks to kids in Ghana during Worldreader’s Vacation Reading School.

I found being in the field a great experience, and I learnt more than I would have expected. Like, for example, that the kids there use plastic bags as water bottles, or that most of them do not get any shots at birth.

All the kids really wanted to learn and were so welcoming. They always wanted to play and interact with you no matter the circumstances. I found it very enjoyable teaching the kids to read because they were always energetic and eager to learn more. I was very impressed by the speed at which the kids learnt to read.On the first day, there were a handful of kids that had to read slowly and really tried to pronounce the words; by the third day they were able to read twice as fast without making any mistakes and their annunciation skills had improved significantly. I also realized that the kids were extremely shy, especially the younger ones. They would simply just stand by the back door and watch the ongoings. However, if you talked to them and asked if they wanted to read, they eagerly said yes and would want to keep reading for as long as possible.

Also, the kids always wanted to help each other and teach each other to read. There were always kids leaning over to help others and give them a helping hand at a second’s notice. Furthermore, kids were not afraid, but rather, eager to ask questions. You would always have a handful of kids raising their hands for help. This was very nice to see because it showed that the kids really wanted to learn and were not shy to learn. It also showed that the kids were not afraid to talk and ask questions which proves their eagerness even more.

Kids in Ghana are eager to learn--inside and outside the classroom, something Sebastian enjoyed seeing.

Kids in Ghana are eager to learn–inside and outside the classroom, something Sebastian enjoyed seeing.

Julien

My name is Julien. I’m 12 years old, and I have two brothers. I love outdoor sports and most of all hanging out with friends. I love making people laugh, but I also like learning. My favorite sport is skiing and cross-country. If you went to my house right now you would probably find me in my room texting or socializing. If I’m not there, it’s because I’m out with friends either fishing, swimming, skiing, at the movies, or just hanging out. My favorite part about this summer was not summer, not a place, not an activity, but a thought or mood.

What I experienced in Ghana with Worldreader was unforgettable and memorable. From seeing the kids play soccer amazingly to reading a language that came [from] thousands of miles away. Everything was astonishing.

What I thought was really impressive was how people with no modern technology knew how to use a modern Kindle without help. Something that was probably the most impressive was how well they spoke English. That really fascinated me. Everyone could be speaking only Twi (Ghana’s official language) if they didn’t commit to coming to school. They all wanted to come to school because it’s something that they enjoy because they love learning.

Julien,12 years old (right) and a Ghanaian student share ideas about a story they read on their Kindles.

Julien,12 years old (right), and a Ghanaian student share ideas about a story they read on their Kindles.


The most important lessons I learned was that it doesn’t matter how old you are, how far away you live, how much money you have or how smart you are. All that matters is that you commit. Every single kid from the school in Ghana probably hasn’t seen a smartphone before, but still they dream to be professional soccer players and rock stars.

Overall, my experience with the kids in Ghana was priceless, and I’m still in awe.

Book love is contagious! And as Julien says, "The most important lessons I learned was that it doesn’t matter how old you are, how far away you live, how much money you have or how smart you are. All that matters is that you commit."

Book love is contagious! And as Julien says, “The most important lessons I learned was that it doesn’t matter how old you are, how far away you live, how much money you have or how smart you are. All that matters is that you commit.”