Saturday, July 12, 2008

A short "mission-like" statement... and an anecdote

In an email exchange with another library supporter I tried to briefly convey what we are trying to do at FAVL:

We try to concentrate much more on the developmental/institutional side of the village library- the places where we operate have very low literacy, so 1000-2000 books is more than sufficient. We spent much of our attention on assuring that librarians are paid a regular salary, on training staff, on developing procedures for well-run libraries, on expanding the network of volunteers and "friends" who will sustain each rural library, on creating programs that will sustain readership (i.e. producing books for the local audience). Etc.

For example, we are developing a "guide" for our upcoming summer reading camp that will start in a couple of weeks. We've got a great dynamic young Burkinabe working with us on the camps. he has a lot of neat ideas. But many that need refinement. For example, this morning we were talking about his activities that he does in Ouagadougou with schools: "pantomime", he calls it. Groups of two-three students are given a short text, and they act it out silently. Think the tortoise and the hare, acted out by ten year olds. But when I pressed for details... the activity gets a little convoluted.
To paraphrase the conversation:
"Each group goes off and practices, and then they come back and each group in turn acts out the pantomime for the audience."
"But with a hundred kids that means you have to have 30 texts? That's a lot of work to develop the texts!"
"No! They all do the same texts."
"Huh? Why would they do the same texts?"
"Because the audience has to grade them. So it wouldn't be objective if they weren't doing the same thing."
"But, the audience is watching 30 groups do the pantomime of the same text... doesn't that get pretty boring after awhile?"
"Well, I guess it does..."
Anyway, you can see where the conversation headed. We agreed that the point of the pantomime exercise should be to have fun, and not to be graded!

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