Happy national book month everyone! As we are already 6 days in, I hope that you dove right into this month’s celebration of books and are voraciously reading or re-reading new and/or past favorite books! Books are such an amazing resource to expand our vocabularies, vast array of knowledge, and imagination, to name just a few.

There are so many ways that one can revel in their love of books, such as setting a reading goal or helping someone else learn to read. Sharing one’s love of books with others is another wonderful way to celebrate national book month. With this particular thought in mind, I wanted to share with you these three stories of Maryknoll Lay Missioners who were able to bring books into the lives of those within their mission communities.

“Here is my latest favorite story as it relates to my work: One day a form 2 (sophomore) student came to my office to visit with me. She had just finished her freshman year from another Kibera school and wanted to know more about our secondary school.[..] Turns out she has both parents who are able to pay her schools fees, but she wanted to attend ‘our’ school because it has such a wonderful library! She will check in with us in January. Her comment surprised me; I had never thought that the library would be so important as to what school a student might want to attend. As you all know our library is a community library and open to all; and, you all know how pleased I am that it has been so successful (and mostly due to the contributions from many of you that has enabled me to purchase books and other resources and African craft items to make it homey). We are the only library in Kibera and chairs (and floor) are full most of time, but it is just really starting to dawn on me just what I have accomplished in developing this library that fills such a need (and gives me such joy!). Developing the library right from the start was an enjoyable challenge so that I never viewed it as hard or work; it was sort of organic and just grew over time to become the success it is today. This is a simple story, but one I needed to have happen; her visit bolstered my resolve to continue making this library the best ever and remind myself that ‘All things are possible with God’!”

~ Vikki Smith, Maryknoll Lay Missioners Our Words, January 2008

Lay Missioner Vikki Smith, Christ the King School in Kibera, Kenya 2007

Lay Missioner Patty LaMothe

“The mobile library is launched! Sr. Eileen Brady and I have traveled with two Timorese colleagues to three schools in the past two weeks.[..]

When we entered the school area at Saboria we discovered that there were four classes all together in a shed-like structure, about 150 students in grades 2 through 5.[..] We asked the teachers if we could take each class outside and have mobile library activities under the trees. They thought that was a fine idea.[..] Sr. Eileen, Adelino, Aida and I were able to conduct some good activities about colors and shapes and then offer a reading-for-fun time to the students in each of the classes. Our biggest challenge was to keep moving to the next class every 45 minutes. The school day at Saboria is four hours long and there were five groups to meet. A hectic first attempt! We learned a lot.

We were able to spend more time with each group in Fatulai because they only have three groups. They are a small hamlet situated far into the mountains … about a two-hour drive. Well worth the effort to reach them! The three teachers there were very interested in everything we did and asked good questions afterwards. We left materials with them to use until we return in November. Our goal in each school is to provide active learning experiences for the students and then loan books to the students to read for pleasure. The teachers can observe and/or participate in the learning activities and then borrow the materials to use with their students: a bit of ‘on the spot’ teacher training as well as a learning opportunity for the students. In Fatulai the classes were composed of two grades in one room, but there were less than 20 students in each room. We all had a good time and everybody learned something… students, teachers and us.[..]

When we went to Horai Raco, we were back to the 45 minutes and MOVE! It was delightful even though we moved along rather quickly. We took our learnings from Saboria and Fatulai and are now splitting our group of four so as to give students more opportunity to enjoy the books. Two of us move to the next class and two of us stay behind with the boxes of books. The two staying behind join the rest of us about 20 minutes later, just when the next class is finishing the learning activity and is ready to look at books. It works much better than the ‘hurry-up’ schedule we tried at Saboria.

I am so grateful for the opportunity to do a mobile library here in East Timor. It is wonderful to see how excited the students are about reading, about holding books, about being able to have some time to explore different books. For some of the younger students, it is the first time in their lives they have seen colored pictures in books. For some, it is the first time they have held a book. We have to encourage them to open it.”

~ Patty LaMothe, Maryknoll Lay Missioners Our Words, November 2003

“Our backpack library continues to expand adding 30 to 40 books a month. Since there are no storybooks in the home for children to read one book will be read by the whole family. The children and their family’s response to books is edifying. Some have read them all as we continue to search for more titles. Being with the children and their families through books is our mission.”

~ Roger & Kitty Schiltz, Maryknoll Lay Missioners Our Words, March 2005

Lay Missioners Kitty & Roger Schiltz