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These are a few my favorite things...

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A few of my favorite camp pictures thus far...

FAVL animator Alidou and camper with a reading Bouba et Zaza Mesurent les Dangers

Individual reading time

Rocking out on the "Camp de lecture 2012" drum in Karaba

Reading stories in small groups

Kids helping each other read a book written by a RWA student

One of the best things about reading camps is the individual attention the kids get that they don't have at school in a classroom of 80+

Reading Tree Leaves and Guessing Games

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DSC_1089.JPGOne of the hard things about being American and working with kids in this country is you really notice the lack of critical thinking skills. A lot of learning is based on rote memorization. Exams really just test how well you recopied and memorized what was on the board since the last exam instead of how well you understood the material. Even at reading camps, the animators often emphasize how well a student has pronounced all the words on a page and respected punctuation. Both of these things are very important, especially for kids who have poor reading skills to begin with. But often they reach the end of a perfectly-read page and you ask them a question: "How old is Fatimata?"and you receive a blank stare as a response.

So this year, we tried to incorporate a couple of activities into the program that emphasized critical thinking. One of the activities was very simple: creating leaves that would be placed on the reading tree located in the library. Four out of the six days, campers had to come in and create a leaf for the tree based on the book they had read at DSC_0308.JPGhome the night before. The task was simple. The kids had to only had to identify the title of the book, the name of the author and the name of the reader (themselves).

In Karaba, it was enlightening to see how many of the kids (even the strong readers) struggled with this exercise during the very first session. Even after we had explained what a title and author were, several of the kids wrote their own names after "auteur:" The other sessions were easier, and after a couple of tries, the kids were eventually able to point out the titles and authors of books they were not familiar with.

After the camps, the librarians attached the leaves to the trees, so now not only do the kids have a little bit better understanding of the books they read, they also get to bring their friends to the library to show off how many leaves they have on the reading tree.

DSCN0500.JPGAnother activity that we included this year is called "Regardez la devinez!" ("Look at the cover...and guess!"). Basically, in small groups, kids had to examine the title of a book and the image on the cover and guess what would happen in the story. The facilitator in the group would also stop the story periodically and have the kids guess what would happen in the following pages based on the images to come. In Karaba, the kids got good at associating the pictures and the text as well as guessing how the story would progress.

Yesterday Sunnyvale Rotarian Charlie Wasser sprung the good news on me!  Rotary international has approved our proposal to work with Rotary Club of Ouagadougou- Savane to establish a "media center" in the town of Houndé that will work with local village populations to produce microbooks in the region.  The grant is for $35,000 over five years.

The books will be about subjects of interest to village readers, be authored by people in the villagers, and be "produced" by the FAVL team in the region.  We are looking forward to producing microbooks of stories from the various ethnic groups in the region, village histories, family histories, school story contests, photography books of local festivals and important events, and basically anything that our team comes up with that will likely be of interest to readers!

Some examples of the photography books FAVL has been producing are here as our fastpencil website.  We are looking forward to starting to work on the project!  Thanks especially to Charlie Wasser and the whole Sunnyvale Rotary Club, and other district-level Rotarians who worked hard to make this happen!

Recent FAVL activities in Burkina Faso and Ghana

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  • Several new books are available on fastpencil FAVL website.  Thanks to Elisee for doing the "montage".  One is an alphabet book by a Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal.  One is the Moringa book by Alison Wallace.
  • Burkina Faso summer reading camps are in full swing.  There have been some excellent recent blog posts by the Ouagadougou team.  FAVL received $400 in local funding to support the camps, in addition to significant funding from International School of Ouagadougou and U.S. Embassy in Burkina Faso.  And, as you know, Lisle Inc.
  • Thanks to grant from Chen Yet-Sen Foundation, Lucas Amikiya in Sumbrungu traveled to Accra and purchased a substantial number of children's books for the three libraries.  The grant will also permit purchase of new children;s tables and chairs, and mats.
  • The three Ghana librarians have started running after-school reading programs with the new books, where they have groups of children all reading the same book.  A promising new program.
  • The Ouagadougou team has been trying hard to establish contacts with gold mining companies in Burkina, as potential local donors.
  • The Burkina team has been continuing efforts to transfer more responsibiliity to local mayors.  The latest word is that two mayors are now ready to sign MOUs with FAVL.  Once some of them commit, we expect the others to follow rapidly.  This is important because as you recall Burkina Faso only decentralized in 2005, and local mayors (all of them are the very first elected mayors and are up for reelection in Dec 2012) have limited experience and limited budgets.  So this is a big step.
A Map of Africa
The World Map Project was something that was started by Peace Corps Volunteers to teach students in developing countries who may not have access to books, maps or television a little something about the world. Most volunteers create a world map at their site or help DSC_0970.JPGfriends/neighbors create them at their sites at some point during their service. The project is great because it's fun and inexpensive and reassures you that your village will remember you long after you leave.

Antoinette and I decided we wanted to do a map at one of the libraries. In the end, we decided to be a little less ambitious and do a map of the continent of Africa. Since about 90% of Burkinabè school children cannot point Burkina Faso out on a map, we thought it was still something. We told Dounko and Alidou about our idea, and they suggested doing it at the Koumbia library.

So DSC_0975.JPGthe weekend of August 3rd, Antoinette and I headed to Koumbia. We hired a mason to make a cement slab to smooth out a section of the wall outside of the library. When it dried, we got to work. The thing we did not take into account was rainy season. In normal conditions, the blazing Burkina noontime sun will dry anything within a couple of hours, but this is not the case during July and August, when most days are overcast and moisture constantly hangs in the air. So even after 24 hours after laying our coat of ocean blue, we were still working with only a semi-dry canvas. Then the night after we laid the finishes touches on the map, there was a huge rainstorm, which cause some of the colors to run. Even so, for the most part, the map looks nice and will be a good educational tool to have at the library.

DSCN9243.JPGJ'aime la lecture!
DSC_1074.JPGAfter painting the map of Africa, there was a substantial amount of paint left over, and Antoinette and I realized we'd been bitten by the mural painting bug. Since we were both heading to Karaba for the reading camp, we decided to bring the paint with us and paint a mural at the library there. We decided we'd write "J'aime la lecture!" and have each kid put his or her handprint on the map. When we proposed the idea, we could tell the animators didn't really understand the concept or why we were so excited with our brilliant plan, but gave us the green light to do it. On Wednesday, we painted a big blue rectangle, and the campers gathered around to find out what we were doing. We just said it DSC_1114.JPGwas a surprise and they would find out the next day. For the handprints, we got plastic gloves from the health clinic to put on everyone's hands to avoid mess, but we forgot we were dealing with primary school children. The glove plan quickly failed, but the kids didn't mind getting a little dirty. As the animators saw the progression of the mural, they began to understand, and were eager to get their own handprints on the wall. Even the librarian participated! There was a slight misunderstanding with a capital "J" that according to some resembled a "g," but everyone was quickly appeased when we awkwardly placed a handprint in the middle of the letter to obscure the resemblance. We then collected all the kids and took a series of class pictures in front of the mural.

Thumbnail image for DSC_1119.JPGThe projects were a lot of fun to work on, and now Antoinette and I know that we get to leave a little piece of our work with FAVL and the villages even after we leave Burkina.


Kerry and Krystle Take on Northern Ghana

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You may remember that I went on a trip in late April to Ghana with a fellow PCV to talk about oral hygiene with the adult literacy classes being held there by FAVL volunteer Brianna. I started working on a video montage of the trip, and finally had the time to sit down and finish it.

So, without further ado, I give you Kerry and Krystle Take on Northern Ghana.

Opening Festivities at the Koumbia Camp

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Short video featuring encouraging opening words for the campers from a Koumbia official. 

Learning about handwashing with Feist

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A video of the kids at the Béréba camp singing a song about handwashing in French to the tune of Feist's "1, 2, 3, 4." It's adorable, I promise. (Look out for Donkoui's mini-me daughter in the front row.)


Rapport l'ouverture du camp de lecture à Koumbia

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Ce lundi 13 août 2012 a été marqué par l'ouverture  à Koumbia du cinquième camp de lecture de la 5èm édition des camps de lecture de l'Association des Amis de Bibliothèques de Villages Africains/FAVL. Ce camp a été parrainé par Mme Naboho/Boni Berthe épouse du premier Vice Président de l'Assemblée Nationale du Burkina Faso. Pour des raisons inventaires de sa volonté, elle n'a pas pu faire le déplacement à Koumbia, mais s'est fait représentée par Dounko Sanou Bibliothécaire/Coordonateur de FAVL.

Les autorités communales n'ont pas manqué au rendez-vous de cette cérémonie d'ouverture. Après l'arrivée des élèves bénéficiaires suivi de leur habillement des t-shirts du camp et de leur petit déjeuner, ce fut l'arrivée de Mr le Préfet de Koumbia et du Maire de la dite commune.

Après avoir souhaité la bienvenue à tous et à toutes, les participants ont chanté pour manifester leur joie de part à ce camp, qui leur fera du bien.  Dounko Sanou a livré le message de la marraine que voici :

« Mr le Préfet de Koumbia, Mr le Maire de la commune de Koumbia, chers  animateurs chères filles et fils de Koumbia. C'est avec un grand honneur et plaisir que j'ai accepté de parrainer ce camp initié par l'Association Amis des Bibliothèques de Villages Africains/FAVL au profil des élèves du cm1 qui seront au cm2 à la rentrée prochaine. Ce plaisir pour moi n'est autre que la confiance que FAVL a accordée à ma modeste personne pour parrainer ce camp de lecture dans ma commune native. Venir en aide à une Association qui ne ménage aucun effort pour apporter si je peux  le dire ainsi une lumière de développement dans notre province en générale.  Je ne ferai pas de discours mais j'invite les autorités communales, les filles et fils et toute la population de Koumbia à faire de cette bibliothèque leur  source de savoir et d'apprentissage. Nous, nous n'avons pas eu cette change quand nous étions petits c'est au collège que nous avons bénéficié de quelques romans pour ajouter au savoir de l'enseignant ce qui nous a permis d'être ou nous sommes aujourd'hui. Et lire n'a pas d'âge. La lecture ne fait accroître les connaissances. Ensemble faisons de cette bibliothèque un centre culturel de notre commune. Quant aux élèves participants, je exhorte à bien prendre toutes les choses que vous allez apprendre durant ce camp. Vous êtes les futurs dirigeants de cette commune et du Burkina. La lecture ouvre l'esprit et les portes de succès dans la vie. Je remercie également l'Association FAVL, les volontaires du corps de la Paix au Burkina, les animateurs et tous ceux qui apporteront leur savoir pour la réussite de ce camp.  Je vous souhaite bon camp de lecture, je vous remercie».

Les autorités présentes n'ont pas manqué d'apporter leurs conseils aux participants tout en les invitant à fréquenter la bibliothèque.

Reading Camp at Karaba: Part 2

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Books, reading, and libraries relevant to Africa by Michael Kevane, co-Director of FAVL and economist at Santa Clara University.

Other contributors include Kate Parry, FAVL-East Africa director, FAVL Burkina Faso representative Koura Donkoui, FAVL Burkina Faso program manager Krystle Nanema, and FAVL friends Emilie Crofton and Elisee Sare.

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