The children are full of stories.
Here in Kibera, the poverty is staggering. There are hundreds of thousands of children here without parents, lost to HIV/AIDS. I met a family of nine children today who live alone. Both parents died. Their only meal a day comes when they arrive at Red Rose School.
Mercy is ten. She says the LitWorld Girls LitClub has given her strength to stand up to the girls in her neighborhood and to say why she wants to be in school. She said she made friends, which she'd never even known how to do before. And she says she wants to be a midwife to help all the girls like the ones she knows in her community.
But oh, the stories! Stories of fairies, and kings and lions and cheetahs. Stories of girls who stand up to fear and villages with magic birds who drop from the sky to lead the people to food.
The stories heal, nourish, inspire and fortify. The stories are THEIRS.
Later, literacy will protect them and defend them. Literacy can help them find help for a question they need to know, or how to take care of their bodies, and spirits. Literacy will get them a job or help them get in touch with someone, help them not to be lonely.
But for right now, literacy gives them JOY, happiness and hope. I am hopeful because they are.
They are our teachers as much as we are theirs.
They can listen endlessly to the read aloud, listen attentivelyto each other til they nearly fall off chairs. No one is ever "bored" or distracted. They are engaged because they see the urgency of it all, and they feel the love for it.
It is that simple. No "assessment", no "accountability", none of those words we have determined must be used in the US to explain outcomes in education.
It is very clear here that education is lifesaving, and stories are the first and constant door in to that world.
Stories here are everywhere. The children want them and want to give them.
Today, Sharon, who is twelve, said to me, Pam please sit down. And gave me her small corner of the seat where all the girls were jammed in. She wanted to stand so I could sit.
Children will give all they can. We must do the same.