Usually, in this space, I post recommendations for a variety of good books – books that will appeal to kids, parents and educators at international schools, with wide global appeal. This time, I would like to share just one book – a very special, impressive book which will be meaningful to many booklovers.
Years ago, I wrote a nonfiction children’s book called My Librarian is a Camel. That book started when I read a newspaper article about camels in Kenya being used to deliver books to remote villages. That’s when I realized I, like many others, was taking my free public library for granted.
I thought ‘If kids in Kenya get books delivered by camel, how else do people get library books if they live in remote areas and have no access to books?’ That question kept me occupied with research for the next many years. In the process of finding out the answers, I made friends with librarians in Zimbabwe, with booklovers in Papua New Guinea and made life long friends with fellow authors in Pakistan and Mongolia. The result was my book for children, published by Boyds Mill Press in the USA. Not only did that book lead to me speaking at many literacy conferences and in schools, I also made contact with people who wanted to help. Boxes and boxes of books, as well as funds, were gathered by school children in the USA to help children in far away countries. The book helped to stock a library built by volunteers in a Mayan village in Mexico. It led to pen-pal exchanges, with books as the focus, between thousands of students in over 30 countries. So I know first hand the effect a book can have on rallying people together and creating awareness.
And, being so involved in books and unusual libraries, I was surprised to discover a book I didn’t know yet. Recently, I received a copy of a book called The Library Tree. The book is written by Deborah Cowley. This very special, touching book is the story of one woman: Kathy Knowles. Many years ago, Kathy, her husband and young children left Canada to work in Ghana. While there, Kathy started reading picturebooks to her children, under a shady tree in her backyard. It wasn’t long before neighborhood children joined them.
Seeing how much the kids loved the stories, and realizing they had no other access to books, Kathy started collecting books. She eventually turned one room in her house into ‘a room full of books’ and used it as a small lending library.
More kids led to more books, more books led to more libraries. Over the years, Kathy Knowles has build many libraries across Ghana and beyond. These libraries were built on solid foundations and with local input. The libraries employ many people and have received worldwide praise. They serve schools and universities as well as street children. Everyone is welcome in these libraries.
Kathy Knowles also started training librarians and educators, ensuring that libraries will be well staffed. From the beginning, she managed to persuade the government to pay all staff salaries.
And while she spearheaded her enormous project alone, she has not accomplished everything single handedly. Her community in Canada has been collected, cleaning, packing and shipping the best books for many years. Kathy’s initiative has helped hundreds, perhaps thousands, of children in Ghana to learn to read, to get an education and to achieve their dreams.
For her many years of hard volunteer work, Kathy has received many awards and recognitions, including the Governor General’s Award. But likely, the most meaningful award for her will be the fact that so many children have learned to read and use books.
The Library Tree is a small book but it has a profound impact on the reader. It inspires us all to make a difference in the world.
The Library Tree, Deborah Cowley, ISBN 978-1-926531-83-0
For more details check out: https://osuchildrenslibraryfund.ca/