The ability to read will change the destiny of a generation

My friends often joke that I’m losing my memory as quickly as I’m losing my hair colour but they are wrong – the exact opposite is happening. When I started writing a weekly column in Kenya’s Business Daily, I was advised to read books frequently to gather more ideas and advance my writing.

That advice was priceless. In the past three and a half years I have read 54 books most of which I thoroughly enjoyed. They kept me entertained, helped me to gain new perspectives and reinforced some of my previously held ideas. Sometimes I feel that I adopted the reading hobby terribly late, but I console myself with the thought that the best time to pick up a good habit is right now.

The by-products of this pleasurable pastime are a significant improvement in my short-term memory, an increased ability to focus, and to my optician’s dismay, better eyesight. This might sound trivial for an old hand, but the benefits are magnified for any young mind that picks up the habit.

And it is for that very reason that we in Rotary have selected basic education and literacy as one of the 6 areas of focus. Once you equip a child with the fundamental ability to read, then you have provided them with the springboard for a life of learning and development – and you set them up for success.

Of the people above the age of 15 in the 4 counties that our district comprises of, 43 million are illiterate, representing a whopping 6% of the worlds illiterate. It is a crisis of our times because people who cannot read or write have limited opportunities to positively influence the activities of government, business and society in general. In short, they are locked out of economic activity, and the girls become vulnerable to early marriages to survive and the boys turn to crime for their income.

The Rotary Club of Karen has set the stage in our district for large literacy projects with far reaching impact in our society. By securing impressive donations of over Ksh. 2 million worth of books from both Oxford Publishers and Longhorn Publishers in 2018 alone, they have literary changed the future of our children, and indeed of the country as a whole.

If your club has a small literacy project, think about moving it beyond classroom reading sessions or donating second-hand books, and consider partnering with an international club for a Global Grant to develop life changing projects that will see a future generation of citizens with a strong and established reading culture.

Anne Marie Kingara is a former librarian and a charter member of the Lavington Rotary Club and she believes that our literacy projects should have cultural nuances and curriculum development in mind. For starters, we should focus on projects that supply brand new books that are culturally relevant. 

That is not to say that second-hand books have no value, but obtaining the funds to purchase books that are recommended for young readers in our countries will have a stronger influence in their destiny. If indeed you are securing a donation of second-hand books from another part of the world, scrutinize them carefully before shipping them over so as to avoid getting titles that are culturally offensive. 

Secondly, we should not take book versioning for granted and try as much as possible to donate curriculum set books that are up to date. Where there are no books, any book may do, but if you consider that exam questions are prepared based on the latest version of books, students may pass or fail based on the details that have been altered in those that are up to date.

So, if your club has a small literacy project, consider elevating your game and increasing the impact of it by applying for a global grant. On the other hand, if your club hasn’t been involved in any basic education activity recently, consider running mentorship sessions in schools, refurbishing their chalk boards or join the Literacy Rotary Action Group, LITRAG (, where you can learn from experts or share your experiences for the benefit of others.


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