Building girls’ confidence through reading

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A book club project at Dagoretti Girls Rehabilitation School is building girls’ self-confidence by encouraging them to develop a reading culture and develop their interests.
The program introduced in July 2017 by Carol Mtai, a senior Prosecution Counsel and an advocator for children’s rights helps girls collect books for their library, read them while sensitizing the community on ending stigma against children in approved schools.
“I run the book club project in collaboration with the Manager of the school Clarah Kirui and the Director Children’s Services Noah Sanganyi. We teach the girls to share and support each other by encouraging those who can read to read stories to those who cannot,” said Mtai.

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The library is divided into three reading groups. Simba, Marara and Tausi (Yellow, Red, and Blue) and the girls are given reading assignments as individuals and as a group making the activity fun and inclusive.
“Through the reading assignments there is the head of study groups who is often the girl with the best reading skills and will ensure that the other girls who cannot read are able to understand the stories or assignments,” she said.
Children who cannot read are included by the use of storytelling to get them to open up and build self-confidence as they learn to read.
“The first session tested the girls' reading skills and interest in books. Most of them were extremely interested though we discovered that the few who were not interested could not read. Therefore, we decided to add storytelling to ensure that even those who could not read got a chance to participate,” said Mtai.
The initiative also sources for volunteer storytellers from various organizations who speak to the girls, read books with them, interact as they listen to them and motivate them to be better and successful in life.
“We also, through the sessions, try to discover each child’s interests which will then guide us in identifying guests to invite. For example, there are children who would like to be beauty therapists, farmers, mechanics musicians, and comedians. We, therefore, try to look for guests who can speak about these specific interests,” she said.
The project which also aims to eradicate stigma against children in ‘approved schools’ encourages acceptance in the community through meeting and participating in the rehabilitation.
“All the children are invited to join and participate in the Book Club. It is voluntary. At first, not all the children attended the sessions but slowly they developed an interest naturally and attendance improved. We now have 100% attendance. The girls are currently 62 though the numbers keep fluctuating as some children are released and others are admitted to the facility,” said Mtai.
Mtai is looking for volunteers with qualifications being any person that loves children and is no matter their circumstances and believes that all children deserve an equal opportunity to thrive and is willing to visit the children at their own cost, spend time with them and read books with them.
“I am also looking for women who can have girl talk with the children to speak to them about puberty, boys, hygiene, self-confidence and all things girls learn from their mothers and teachers. The sessions are every Saturday from 10.30am to 1 pm,” she said.

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