Frequently Asked Questions

 

Lubuto founder Jane Meyers gives an overview of the Lubuto Libraries. Produced by the Giving Library.

What are the children who use the libraries like?

The children of Lubuto libraries come from many different walks of life.

They may be recently orphaned or may have survived on their own, perhaps living in the streets, for several years. Of those living in homes, many live in households with only their brothers and sisters and must care for younger children or are cared for by older siblings.

Frequently a large number of orphaned siblings and cousins are living with an elderly grandmother, who is able to offer only shelter and a small amount of food. Other children have lost their home when their parents died and have resorted to living on the streets with other children, finding food and necessities wherever they can.

Many of the children have watched their parents grow sick and eventually die. They may have been separated from their siblings when their parents died and have lost their homes and possessions. They may be HIV positive themselves, and they may or may not be aware of their HIV status. They are particularly vulnerable to sexual and substance abuse, which put them in greater danger of being infected with HIV.

Poor nutrition and sanitation may have taken a toll on their health and learning abilities, particularly if they have survived without family or institutional support for an extended period. The children are especially endangered when there is an outbreak of a disease such as cholera in the general society in which they live.

Are the street kids educated? Can they read?

The children may have been in school for many years or may have been unable to attend school. Because of irregular school attendance, the children we are targeting have a wide range of literacy levels, often not corresponding to their age. Trying to learn to read in a second language may compound the difficulty.

The reasons for their being excluded from school include: the lack of money for school fees and uniforms; being shunned or stigmatized because they are orphans, if their parents were known to have died of AIDS, or simply for being poorer than children in better circumstances; the need to work or beg during the day for money for themselves and for their siblings’ subsistence; and an inability to concentrate in school due to depression, hunger, sickness, or other physical or psychological trauma.

How can libraries help children who are not in school?

Lubuto libraries are special places where children can read for themselves, look at books or have books read to them, and thus come in contact with and explore a wealth of information and experience otherwise well out of their reach given their living conditions.

By making a wide variety of books available to them, children are able to find materials suited to their level, to meet their specific needs. An older teenager may wish to read a very basic book in order to improve his or her reading, or perhaps to just begin to learn to read. Other children may be able to read well and are ready to enjoy books and learning on a more advanced level, perhaps to prepare for secondary school entrance examinations.

Library collections can offer these children enrichment on many levels. Books can provide information on practical skills or on health and safety issues vital for survival. They can provide, on various levels, information and education about the world, its history and cultures, and the philosophical and scientific understanding all children need to acquire as they prepare to take their place in the world. They can guide children to new forms of recreation or inspire new arts. Fiction and poetry can give some escape from their difficult and circumscribed conditions and inspire hope for a better life.

Why does the content and the condition of the books matter so much?

One thing that makes Lubuto special, and able to have a profound impact on the children we will serve, is that we will send excellent collections of books. We want the children we serve to know that we respect them and feel they are worthy of good, new books. Poor quality, culturally irrelevant, or simply uninteresting books will not help children develop a love of learning or reading; and books that are damaged or are not durable will not last long.  We will send only excellent books, of which there are many.

How is this different from book donation programs?

A unique feature of Lubuto, which sets us apart from book donation programs, is that we are creating complete collections of excellent children’s books, already organized, offering out-of-school children an instant library with books covering a wide range of subjects and levels. To do this, books must be carefully selected from materials received by donation to ensure that the collection is balanced and comprised of top quality publications. We do not just send relevant, age-appropriate books, but truly excellent children's libraries, collections as fine as could be found anywhere.

The reason we are taking this approach, which differs from book donation programs, is because those programs usually send books to schools, in Africa and other less-developed areas. But we want to make books available to children who cannot attend schools, at least not traditional schools. Therefore, we are creating new institutions – libraries – where children can find a home.

Is language an issue? Do the children know English?

Few of the children coming to Lubuto libraries will speak English as their first language. Their mastery of English will range from no proficiency to complete fluency. Whatever their ability to speak English is, they want and need to learn to speak and read English well in order to succeed in school and work, and become productive members of society.

Children are able to develop and improve English language fluency by reading books in English.  Children also need books in their mother tongue.  Unfortunately, in much of sub-Saharan Africa, there are very few children's books in print in local languages. It is our policy to purchase all relevant local language publications that are available to add to our collections.

How can I help Lubuto Library Partners?

Our most urgent need is for funding. Of course, tax-deductible cash donations of any size will be greatly appreciated. But other fundraising assistance, such as organizing a fundraising event or connecting us with sources of funding, is also very helpful. In-kind donations of library equipment and supplies, printing and business supplies are also needed.

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