"When the reading club was set up and I was informed about it, I encouraged my son to participate in the reading sessions. This has really benefited him to the point that he won a competition here in Binao." These are the words of Yao Menzan Jacob, a state-registered nurse in Binao, some forty kilometres from Tiassalé in the Agnéby-Tiassa region of Côte d'Ivoire.
He is the proud and happy father of Marc-Aurel who is 11 years old and is in the sixth grade. He is one of the Binao students who regularly participate in the reading workshops organized by the association Notre Boîte à Livre (Our Reading Club) as part of the 33 reading clubs set up by Nestlé Cocoa Plan in collaboration with the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI) to improve the quality of education for the children of cocoa farmers.
Just like Marc-Aurel, many of the students performed very well at the competition. The reading club has become a very important part of these children's lives. They borrow the books, read them at home and make a summary of them to the local coordinator. For Mr. Gboka Jean-Marc, a cocoa farmer whose two daughters are regulars at the Binao reading club, this project is already promising. "There is a lot of enthusiasm at home and there is a very good improvement in children's results, reading makes it easier to learn their school lessons."
The same goes for Mrs. Gogou, the director of the kindergarten of Binao 3, who has seen her daughter Gemima's shyness disappear. In her view, the reading club has done her daughter a lot of good. "My daughter was very shy, she couldn't speak in public and in class, she had a hard time expressing herself. But since the reading club arrived and she took part in the reading workshops, things have been going well... What pleases me the most is that she is now reading from the Holy Scriptures at our prayer sessions.” We met her daughter, who gave us a summary of the novel Thiéni Gbanani, which she read after borrowing it from the reading club. This novel narrates the life of a child from the day he is born, when terrified neighbors discover him devouring a chicken leg, to the day he becomes a wise and revered king.
33 local coordinators recruited and trained
33 primary school teachers were recruited to become local coordinators. They were trained in April 2023 in Soubré by experts on the basics of live reading and storytelling. This has enabled them to run effective, participative and efficient reading workshops.
Equipped reading clubs
Each reading club owns an average of 50 books and textbooks. Students who wish to do so can borrow books of their choice. Their names are then registered by the local coordinator, along with the telephone number of one of their parents. The book must be returned within two weeks and the child must make a summary of it.
Reading workshops are also organized and led by the Local Coordinators once a week. They stimulate the children through songs, mimes and stories. For Yéboué Koffi Blaise, Local Coordinator of the Binao, the reading club project has created enthusiasm in the community. "This activity has lifted the spirits of our parents and teachers. At school, we used to have a lot of problems with children reading. These sessions have made things easier for the teachers at Binao, because the pupils are increasingly responsive and participate in lessons.”
Setting up reading clubs gives children the opportunity to have free access to books and to read something other than what is offered in the school curriculum. "Pupils have the opportunity to have other dreams, other stories and new vocabulary at no cost," said Rita Dro, President of the Association Notre Boîte à Livres (Our Reading Club). The reading clubs are periodically supervised by the association to fine-tune the work done by the local coordinators so that the children enjoy reading, express themselves correctly and are stimulated.
The reading club pilot project began in January 2023 and is scheduled to run for 12 months, until January 2024.