RWANDA: How A Nurse Is Using Reading To Instill Pan-Africanism Among Children


Ngozi Odewayi Ogbonnaya during the interview. Image: Ogbonnaya via The New Times, Rwanda

The club encourages children to read local content. 

Odile Ngozi Odewayi Ogbonnaya moved to Rwanda two years ago. Although a nurse by profession, Odewayi holds a strong passion for reading, which led her to founding the Bookie Book Bop Club, to facilitate the growth of a reading culture in African societies. She had a chat with Women Today’s Donah Mbabazi about her initiative.

How did you come up with this initiative?

I started a book club last year out of passion. When my family and I moved to Rwanda in 2016 and my kids got enrolled in school I found out that they were losing their passion in reading and storytelling yet, while still in South Korea, they enjoyed this a lot. I realised they were losing a very important skill so I had to find ways of encouraging them. I approached some of my friends who were parents as well, shared my idea with them and asked them if we could do it together. That was how Bookie Book Bop Club started.

How does Bookie Book Bop Club operate?

We meet from homes twice a month, each family takes a turn to host the book club. Children read books individually at home, mostly local content, summarize what they have read and do a presentation during the bi-monthly meeting.

We discuss what they have read and they share their perspective about the book as their peers ask them questions. So basically we are building three skills which are reading, writing and public speaking and this is what we have been doing for the past one year.

Why is reading important according to you?

Reading is very important because for a person to progress in life, they need to have knowledge which you get through reading. Books are stores of knowledge, they open our minds to the world around us and connect us with the unknown and as you know, readers are leaders, hence making reading a very vital skill in our society that needs to be grown.

Why focus on local content?
We encourage children to read books that are mostly composed around the African setting because with such local content it is easy for one to relate to who they are. It’s more of owning what is yours and where you belong. If kids read about snow for example when they haven’t seen it then it is just imaginations and it is hard to relate to it but when you read about things like fetching water from the stream when you grew up in that situation, you easily relate to it and this is what reading is all about. Most of the kids are born in the city, like mine were born in South Korea, they haven’t lived in any part of their country, Nigeria and how they get to know about being a Nigerian is through reading. I want children to know what Africa is all about and what makes it special; it will foster love of who they are.

What challenges are you facing?

Accessing local content is still a challenge, and we are also having difficulty finding content that is appropriate for each age group. You find that sometimes what we have is either easy or difficult for a particular age group. The other challenge is the space, the numbers are growing and it’s hard to accommodate all of the children at once in a home.

How are you planning to address this?

We are working with publishing companies such as Imagine We Rwanda and they are helping us with the local content, we have also worked with Afflatus Africa. I have also written to the Kigali Public Library requesting them to consider availing space to us as a way of managing the growing numbers.

Going forward, how are you planning to grow and sustain the club?

I think we will have to deal with what is at hand now and as things progress we will see where it leads us. Right now we are focused on having a bigger space where the book club will be accessible for anyone who wants to join. I believe that by instilling a reading culture in our children we are preparing a bright future ahead for them and with this, I want to acknowledge parents who have so far hopped on board.