A-book-a-week project boosts reading culture in Nyandarua
Josephat Muhia had always toyed with the idea of starting a library. Deep down his educator’s mind, he knew there was room for a community library in his part of Nyandarua county, a brook from which would flow the knowledge and succor that book lovers yearned.
But Mwalimu, as he is known, would always shelve the idea, figuring that it wouldn’t work, or that the timing was wrong, or that people in his neighborhood would give his concept a lukewarm, disheartening welcome.
So, when Covid-19 struck in March and the fate of schooling hung on the precipice, Mwalimu knew time was ripe; the iron was hot, and he promptly struck his hammer.
“I started in April,” Muhia told People Daily. “For subscriptions, I started by approaching people I knew. They were convinced, and it worked.”
Thus was borne the Masomo Bora Community Support Library, located along the Fly-over-Njabini highway, just a stone’s throw away from the junction to Thika.
This library caters to the needs of all readers, with specific emphasis on school-going children.
It stocks a growing array of books, ranging from storybooks to Christian and motivational literature.
Inside the library, which is partitioned to accommodate a general supplies shop on one side, Muhia has stacked volumes of books from floor to ceiling.
“Come pick, read and return”, urges a notice that Muhia has circulated in the neighborhood of Magumu ward, Nyandarua county.
Due to Covid-19 rules, he has been cautious not to accommodate readers in the space; so, he strictly operates on a take-away policy.
Learners can borrow books for a maximum of one week, and Muhia explains why.
“If you exceed one week, then that book isn’t helping you. I usually tell parents that I give one week because it compels the learner to read during that (short) period.
If you bought the same book for your child, they would probably never read it knowing the book belongs to them, and they have all the time in the world,” he says.
The one-week deadline, Muhia says, also lessens wear and tear, as it minimises handling and discourages borrowers from giving books to third parties. He says that, thankfully, his borrowers have so far maintained the books well.
“Kids can be careful with books, so I don’t’ have much to worry about. It is, especially so with children with the initiative to come and borrow. Such children are likely to know the value of books and respect them,” adds Muhia.
A teacher by training, Muhia has also published a book, You Believe, You Achieve, a motivational treatise that urges one to scale the heights of their ambition buoyed by sheer belief in their competencies, and not to be discouraged by fleeting distractions along the way.
The library was easy to start. Given that he already operated a bookshop in the area, the launch was almost effortless.
He says it is more a product of his magnanimity rather than rapacious drive of an entrepreneurial mind in the face of calamity.
Admitting the bookshop offered more handsome financial returns, Muhia says the library accords him the benefit of greater fulfilment when he sees the social impact.
“Today, I can lend a dictionary worth thousands of shillings to multiple learners.
It works better that way, for everyone’s good.” The concept, he says, is grounded on this personal philosophy.
“When a boxing referee raises the winner’s hand, the referee is also part of the winner’s victory, despite not being an active participant in the bout.
People will acknowledge that two hands were in the air. When people benefit from your initiative, you, too, become part of their success, and the world will honour you for that.”
Some of the library’s staunch members include college students and the elderly, particularly the retired senior members of society.
“I get occasional request from shopkeepers for recreational books to read as they while the time away. Some retirees have stayed home for long, without access to books.
Such a person may visit the library and pick a volume by Chinua Achebe, to read and recollect their memories from days gone by.
An elderly friend made me look for Abunuwasi’s Tales, saying it would remind him of his childhood, and that inspired my books collection catering for the elderly,” Muhia explains.
Membership fee to join the borrowers’ list at Masomo Bora Community Support Library is Sh500.
“The principal reason for this fee is for the child to appreciate the seriousness of this initiative.
We actually don’t charge seniors, because the assumption is they can be responsible,” he explains.
At the time of our interview in late August, the library’s membership was at 48 children.
In future, Muhia envisages a larger space to serve as a recreational centre, to incorporate the library and a few fun activities, mostly tailored for the young and the young at heart. The recreational centre shall be drug free, he emphasises.