At the beginning of February we officially began the book distribution with the visitors from the Chen Yet-Sen Foundation. Randomly selected students from the schools in the library communities would be receiving three books of their choice. After visiting the libraries, the visitors met with seven of the students, and inaugurated the program by giving them books of their choice.
On February 27 Lucas, Richard, Maxwell, Simon, and myself began traveling to schools to complete the book distribution for the rest of the students. Our car was laden with 10 boxes of books, with a mix of titles to give the students a wide range of choices. Most were African themed, like Kofi Has Malaria, The Cunning Tortoise, or Mumaizu and the Hippos, but we still had several titles with international themes, such as A Trip to the Theater, and a young readers edition of A Tale of Two Cities. In total we had 75 different titles for the students to chose from.
Before we began, we met with the Heads who were very enthusiastic about the book distribution. They helped us arrange a room to set up the books and worked with the teachers to alert the students. They thanked us for supporting their school by providing their students with resources to improve their reading.
The teachers were also helpful in gathering the students who were selected, and volunteering their classrooms. Some of the teachers asked for books themselves, but we encouraged them to make use of the libraries and explained that the books had to go to the children.
The students had been randomly selected the previous summer, and were in Primary 6 or Junior High School Form 1. They pulsed with nervous excitement as they filled out their questionnaire. Some were talkative and had to be reminded that the questionnaires we to be filled out individually, and others kept looking around at their friends and classmates who hung around the windows curiously. Still others worked with grave concentration, as if they believed they would not get the books if they wrote the wrong answers or took too long to complete the questions.
Once they finished the questionnaire, we allowed up to five students at a time to select their books. Some of the children rushed through in their excitement, still managing to pick out some of my favorite titles from the bunch. Others were more deliberate, and leafed through all of the books before carefully making their selections. As I recorded the student's selections we reminded them that the books were now their very own. They could share them with friends and family, but they should take good care of the books because they were theirs now. The students smiled proudly as they left holding their new books. Even though they probably should have returned to class, many of them sat outside the classrooms already engrossed in their new books.