“At this time in my life, the first thing I want to see when I visit a school is their library or at minimum their commitment to encouraging children to read and integration of daily reading activities into their curriculum. Furthermore, I want to see institutions embrace diversity in a real sense introducing children to the world around them both locally and globally, while providing them with a solid foundation for successful learning” says Chez Alpha Books, Director Angela Franklin.
Each year Chez Alpha Books organizes reading programs along with sharing an array of literacy information via social media. In the last two years, Chez Alpha Books has developed reading activities at schools in Dakar, donated English books to a local prison and coordinated online literacy competitions.
For International Literacy Day 2016, Chez Alpha Books highlighted five books that emphasized the importance of self-acceptance, positive self-images for children of African descent, along with lessons related to the importance of community, tradition, ethical values and culture. The five books selected include:
· Bama’s Twins by Coumba Toure
· Justice pon di Road by Aliona L. Gibson
· Keish Cane and Her Very Sweet Tooth by Ashley Foxx
· Broken Glass by Greg Burnham
· One Plastic Bag - Isatou Ceesay and The Recycling Women of The Gambia by Miranda Paul
In addition, to sharing these five books to the Chez Alpha Books community, the Story Hour and Activity program allowed children and parents to experience the books I Love my Hair and Leopold Senghor-A Man of Destiny first hand. Published in 1998, I LOVE MY HAIR by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley and illustrated by E.B. Lewis is a book that still shares a powerful message almost twenty years later as a young girl named Kenyana who has started to dislike her hair, with the help of her mother learns to celebrate her natural hair. The illustrations by E.B. Lewis successfully describe the story just as effectively as the author's words. This biography of Leopold Sedar Senghor shares the story of a great poet and philosopher, a wise and democratic statesman, the first president of modern Senegal and a man who represents Senegal’s successful transition to independence.
In a world of technology where children literally live with their mobile phones, PlayStation, and other video games, it is important to organize activities that inspire children to use their imagination, provide visual images that echo their life experiences, and participate collectively in activities that are good for the body, mind and soul. The story I Love my Hair was read by local instructor Waameeka AheVonderae, who conveyed through her voice, emotions and body language her personal love for natural hair.
After reading I Love my Hair and Leopold Senghor-A Man of Destiny, students got busy creating designs for commemorative postage stamps that would honor famous writers, activists and leaders from Senegal. Many of the writers and leaders selected shared a common appreciation for natural hair. Using fabric, crayon, paint, glue and whatever else was available children easily got lost in the passion of creating.
“When we first started the Story and Activity program there were people who looked at us if this was either an outdated or no longer viable event. I am glad that we were committed to doing this as each month we attract a growing audience. While the students may not always be the same, they share a common enthusiasm for books and reading. As long as they remain committed, so will we,” states Angela Franklin.
Chez Alpha Books is a community resource center providing a range of programs and services including a bookstore with multicultural literature, lending library, along with and academic resource program providing English language training, SAT and TOEFL test prep and a College Club program to assist students who want to study abroad.
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