Guest blogger, Amy Vijayanagar of Midland Elementary School’s book drive organizing experience with African Library Project.

Conducting a book drive for the African Library Project was a perfect fit for Midland Elementary School for many reasons. We were looking for an internationally-focused, education-related project to do that didn’t require a large cash contribution and had opportunities for hands-on engagement by our students.  In addition, the ALP project provided a perfect opportunity to help the children in our town learn more about Africa.

Personally, Africa is close to my heart. I had lived in Nairobi for 3 years, working in South Sudan, and have traveled to several African countries, so I am a bit familiar with how people live in Africa.  I knew that for the most part, the Midland students have little familiarity with Africa.  As part of the book drive, I—as well as other parents, teachers, and staff—wanted to raise their awareness.

We began to build awareness by creating a display in the school lobby to generate interest in the project.  During library classes that week, our school librarian read two books on Africa illustrated by award-winning artist Liz Zunon – One Plastic Bag and Lala Salama

During the school assembly that launched the book drive, we invited Liz to speak to our students. Liz grew up in the Ivory Coast and is the illustrator of 9 children’s picture books about Africa. She shared photos and stories about her childhood in Africa as well as how her experiences there both shaped her love of books and reading and have influenced her work as an artist. 

From our lobby display, our assembly, and our guest speaker, our students learned that Africa is made up of 55 countries with different histories and cultures and that African children have some of the same wants and needs as American children.

We look forward to hearing from our partner schools and hope the students there enjoy the books as much as our students have enjoyed reading and sharing them.

 Amy Vijayanagar, Midland School Parent and Book Drive Organizer, Rye, New York.