Open Book Festival has been committed to driving a love of books and reading amongst learners since its inception. Fundamental to this has been the Open Book School Library Project which has seen us put libraries into Matthew Goniwe Memorial High School, Parkhurst Primary and Westridge High School. The experience is one that has been hugely rewarding but which has also come with its own challenges.
As with all aspects of Open Book, we are constantly looking for ways to do things better and it is with this in mind that we reworked the library project to come up with something that doesn’t overwhelm, doesn’t require additional staff or space and which can be kept up to date with relatively little money. Welcome to Open Box! These mini mobile libraries are placed in classrooms, allowing teachers and learners access to the resource through the day.
St Mary’s Primary School
Located in the Cape Town CBD, St Mary’s Primary was ideally suited to be our pilot for the Open Box Project. Teachers showed huge interest in having access to books through the day in their classrooms, the school is within walking distance of the Book Lounge (which is closely associated with Open Book Festival) and learners at the school come predominantly from disenfranchised communities.
2015 – 2017:
2015 saw us piloting the Open Box project and we are delighted with how it worked. In total we placed 3 boxes at St Mary’s Primary and they are now in daily use in the Grade R, 1 and 2 classrooms. In 2016, we placed an additional 3 boxes in the Grade 3, 4 and 5 classrooms and in 2017, we placed boxes in the Grade 6 and 7 classrooms. The boxes include books, games, materials for activities and other resources that are relevant to both teachers and learners. Tied to the boxes, were the events we ran there through the year, from readings and activities through to author visits.
We include at least 5 books per learner in each box. We meet with teachers ahead of purchasing so that they can outline the kinds of books that will best suit them, both in terms of their curricula and challenges faced by their learners. Those conversations enable us to stock each box with titles most relevant to both learners and teachers. The titles include a mix of fiction and non-fiction titles as well as books in different languages and aimed at different reading ages.
While we have completed the box handovers at St Mary’s, our relationship with them will continue and where possible we will organise events for learners. The focus of Open Box though will shift and we identified Siyazingisa Primary School in Gugulethu as the school we are working with for the next few years. The school is part of the same circuit as St Mary’s (Circuit 2).
The principal is Mrs Nonkonyana. She has been based at the school for over 20 years and is excited to be working with us on this. There are 3 Grade R classes and those will be our starting point. We met with the principal and teachers at the end of 2017 to discuss what books would be most relevant to their classrooms and we will be working on getting those together in the coming months. There are roughly 35 learners in each class and we will be aiming for a 5:1 ratio of books to learners. Ideally the majority of those books will be in isiXhosa.
The proposed dates for the handovers are:
23 April 2018: 3 boxes handed over with partial supply of books to each box
7 June 2018: Partial supply of books to each box
31 July 2018: Final supply of books to each box
The dates listed above may change. Each of the handovers will be linked to storytelling