For many children, reading is a chore. Especially some kids seem to find it difficult to sit still for more than five minutes and would rather run around or play with their friends. Just imagine getting these kids into a library and stay calm.

The Ghana Library Authority has declared 2019 to the year of reading. The aim is to motivate Ghanaians to come more frequently to the library to educate themselves. But how does one attract the youth?

The community-based NGO DUNK (Developing Unity – Nurturing Knowledge) in James Town manages to do exactly that – by taking advantage of the children’s urge to play to get them into the library.

Behind the compound of the Jamestown community centre there is a basketball court. Kids and adolescents in neon bibs are training to dunk the ball in the basket. You can smell the sea breeze from the shore right behind and hear the kids’ sneakers squeaking on the concrete floor. Some of the kids are as young as eight but are already able to play two balls at the same time.

Behind the court there is a library with an attached office, separating the basketball court from the shore. The walls are painted with colourful graffiti.

Mohamed Tahir, the co-founder of the community-based NGO explains why he believes, that basketball is the right way to get the kids.

Basketball reading

“When we come to communities like James Town, it would be very difficult to get the Kids to just get to the library because these are kids that are not used to a structure like a library. These Kids have a lot of Energy and they just want to play, they are used to the streets. What we try to do is to add the component of sports to it: The sport is an incentive to get the Kids into the library.”

The library has open hours in which any interested child can just walk in and read, learn and paint by themselves. But there are also closed sessions for the Children that are registered with the NGO.

And according to Mohammed, that is the secret of DUNK’s success in getting the kids to read: If they want to play basketball, they must show up to the library session the day before:

“Because they get so committed into the basketball, they have no choice than to go to the library because we are taking attendance of the kids that go to the library and they have the privilege to play basketball.”

Basketball reading

The British High Commissioner, Iain Walker was also at the event 

Dunk started eight years ago at the Nima Community Youth Cultural Centre, which since 2016 also has its own library. But despite supporting the Nima Centre to the fullest, Mohammed also describes the difficulties they had there:

“The issue in the Nima Library is lack of supervision and lack of staff to contain the number of Kids that come there. And there is no electricity. So, you go to the library and it is dark and warm, and the kids are sweating after coming from school. The least you want for them is to be in a comfortable environment.”

Their proposals to the director of the facility to take over management of the library, however, have not been met. Therefore, DUNK decided to put their focus onto the James Town Community Centre, where they received a lot of support for their activities.

The concept seems to work. After impacting children’s lives in Nima and James Town, DUNK is now looking at expanding to Agege. By the way, they are still searching for volunteers to support them. Therefore, if you like working with kids and love reading and basketball you can join them in Nima and James Town. Their website is www.dunkgrassroots.org.

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