LOS ANGELES — In 2000, the international community pledged to cut adult illiteracy rates in half by 2015, as part of the Education for All act. Although illiteracy rates have decreased since the initial commitment, 757 million adults are still illiterate, according to UNESCO.
Sub-Saharan Africa, West and South Asia have the lowest literacy rates in the world. 25 percent of the illiterate population lives in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2015, 65 percent of the Rwandan population aged 15 and older was illiterate, said UNESCO. One local nonprofit in Rwanda is looking to change that.
The nonprofit organization Ready for Reading was founded in 2007 to advance literacy and cultivate the social and economic benefits of reading. The organization not only acknowledges this educational tool, but also the many other invaluable resources and opportunities that reading provides.
The small organization built the Rwinkwavu Community Library and Learning Center (RCLLC) in 2012 with the mission of improving literacy through community-run projects.
After the Rwandan Genocide, most of the country’s libraries and learning materials were destroyed. Ready for Reading decided to serve the community of Rwinkwavu, located in the eastern province of Rwanda. The rural town of 30,000 is mainly comprised of small farmers.
The Library and Learning Center offers youth and adult literacy classes, as well as music and dance programs and courses in life skills and English. In addition to the reading resources, this space fosters community building and promotes arts and culture. Library visitors are able to learn new skills, receive new resources and advance their education.
The Rwinkwavu Library even has e-readers, which were donated by the Barcelona-based organization, Worldreader. The digital books that the e-readers provide, allow community members to access 39,000 different titles when choosing what they would like to read.
Rwanda is just one of 14 countries in sub-Saharan Africa that Worldreader has reached. According to its website, the digital books they have donated are available to more than 100,000 children. Worldreader specifically selects African authors for the libraries they supply.
The Rwinkwavu Community Library and Learning Center was acknowledged by Rwanda Library Services as the second best library in the country, only after the Kigali Public Library.
On average, the library sees 134 visitors per day, according to the Ready for Reading website. The Library and Learning Center functions as a community space for the town of Rwinkwavu. Ready for Reading empowers this small community of farmers by providing them with opportunities to improve their literacy and foster their learning.
– Erica Rawles