I grew up in a community that did not have many libraries. I was born and raised in Gugulethu. The only thing we did every Saturday morning was go to Luyolo Arts Centre and listen to a few ladies telling us about girl guides. Needless to say, this was boring, it felt like an un-official church. I listened anyway. I wanted more for myself and I knew I deserved it. One Saturday morning my mother brought a Mills and Boon book into the house. I remember reading that book for the first time, it was unputdownable.
I walked around with it for two days and finished it quickly. I felt so excited, wanting to know more about what was going to happen next in the story. I think that was the first time I was so happy about a book that was not from school. I wanted to read so many more of those books. I thought, let me see if the library would have any more copies, so I went to the library in Claremont. I was pleased that they had some and I took one out every week. The most important thing about this fact is that I am now running book clubs and work on literacy programmes because my love for books started at home but having access to the library was a very big influence. It created the person that I am today.
My mother’s employer worked for a publishing company and passed on her weekly and monthly supplies to my mother. So, as a teenager, I grew up reading Farmer’s Weekly and Pace, Femina,Fairlady and Bona magazines. When I look back at all this and see how expensive magazines are, I feel that I was so lucky. From reading all those magazines, I learned how important reading is. I passed the magazines to my younger sister and she then shared them with her friends.
So, I do feel like sharing books is a very good way of promoting a reading culture. It also promotes social skills in children because they discuss the books they read with each other and later in their lives they create proper book clubs. I was at a writers’ festival recently and a friend told me that the book club she belongs to has 15 members who each buy a book from one specific author at a time, and immediately I knew they are promoting book sales and if we all did that our literary industry would grow even bigger.
Having functional libraries
It’s important to have a functional library because libraries matter in a community and can change somebody’s life forever. Books are expensive to buy so it’s nice that we have libraries as long as we remember to bring back the books. It’s also crucial that we have librarians who are passionate about their work, that they know exactly where to direct you when you are looking for special books, such as reference books for studies.
When I was writing my thesis for my LTCL in literature, it was difficult to find the right material and I was helped by a knowledgeable librarian in the town library. I appreciated the enthusiasm with which he helped me, I passed my exam and now I am really grateful for his help, his generosity and his commitment to his work. It certainly made my life a little easier. Walking into a big library can be a daunting experience and so it is especially important to have people who can help you in that space. All libraries should have the same look and feel, and should even be the same size because this would eliminate the intimidating feeling that bigger libraries sometimes have.
Nurturing the reading culture is important
Nurturing a reading culture is important because it makes children see a bigger world. It helps learners extend their vocabulary and lets them interact with different nations through the stories they read. I like libraries that have interactive programmes for children, for example, Harare library in Khayelitsha. I visited there recently and saw that they had designed a corner specifically for young readers. I was impressed because it means that children who live in that area are reading from a very young age, and people who read books from a young age will keep on reading and become future buyers of books. Hopefully, society will become a better place with people reading and interested in preserving that literature.
• Performance poet and writer Primrose Mrwebi works with the Children’s Book Network, which promotes the culture of reading. She also recently started a PrimPoetry Foundation that uplifts the culture of poetry performance.