The Ministry of Education says that early reading and writing skills is “a strong foundation” for children who are starting or already in pre-primary and primary schools, but also a determinant for their further academic excellence.
The observation was made during the literacy month closing ceremony held at Kigali Public Library on September 30. It was themed ‘spaces for reading’ and aimed at encouraging people to create home and community libraries for children.
The literacy, or reading month was launched on September 8, and aimed to promote reading culture among Rwandans.
“It will be very important that we work hard together to transform the learning spaces in our homes, communities, and schools. Reading should be inclusive, safe, and stimulating for literacy development,” Gaspard Twagirayezu, State Minister for Primary and Secondary education said.
“Creating reading spaces is not an impossible task. It determines pupils’ excellence. It is our responsibility to create a literate society,” he added.
According to the Ministry of Education, creating space for reading fits in this year’s literacy day theme “Transforming Literacy Learning Spaces.”
The call to improve reading culture follows several unpleasant figures of literacy in communities in the country.
For example, a 2015 survey found that only 9% of Rwandan parents reported having ever read a story to their child.
A survey conducted by the Ministry of Education in partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) indicates that 2% of Rwandan households have home libraries and access to books.
Besides more needed efforts to increase reading culture in Rwanda, the literacy rate is improving steadily in Rwanda. In 1991, only 58% of the population older than 15 were literate. The number increased to 73% in 2018.
The reading month was organized by the Ministry of education, Soma Rwanda initiative, UNICEF, and USAID. It was characterized by several activities including book fairs and reading sessions with children, media talk shows, webinars, visits to community libraries and distribution of books and other various reading materials.
Other activities included setting up reading schedules in some homes, and introducing e-books and digital platforms like Habu and EKitabu to rural communities.
“We are closing the literacy month, but reading continues. We should all reflect on the importance of literacy and how it builds an elite and sustainable society. It will begin with transforming education, having home and community libraries,” Patrick Musafiri, in charge of education at Save The Children International said.
“The story books have been distributed in communities. But more are needed.” he added.