December 2023 will mark the opening of the Mbife Children's Community Library, one of the few dedicated children's spaces in The Gambia. The library will stock a wide range of books promoting inclusive and diverse literature to develop children's well-being and love of reading.
Children will be able to borrow books for free, motivating them to borrow and read more. This will stimulate their creativity and language abilities and encourage broader social-cultural perspectives such as feminism, building communities, and understanding the importance of socio-emotional skills.
The Mbife Children's Community Library will be based at the Fajara Garden Restaurant. It will also offer a reading program whereby libraries in a box are sent to communities in remote regions to ensure easy access to books.
The library will encourage reading aloud and will host regular storytime sessions where books are brought to life. This group activity will help children overcome their shyness and build their public speaking skills.
Children learn sounds through reading, which is the first step in developing early literacy skills. Stories bring imagination to life and spark children's creativity and curiosity. Reading also builds social, communication and emotional skills while allowing children to learn about the world, their cultures, and cultures around the world.
The library is an initiative from the Mbife Foundation, a non-governmental organization registered in The Gambia, to meet the critical need of increasing literacy and access to books for children and youth in The Gambia.
Its objectives are:
The CEO and Founder of the Mbife Foundation, Emily Joof, is an Education Technical Specialist who has managed and delivered education programmes targeting children, at-risk youth and marginalized communities for more than 15 years. She is also the author of children's books available globally and has written 14 children's books to date with translations in Swedish, French, Wolof and English.
Education and literacy are critical to ensuring children are prepared and empowered for the future. Learning to read unlocks the door to progression through education and achieving children's full potential. According to the World Bank, every extra year of schooling increases an individual's hourly earnings by 9%, and rates can be higher for women.
Around the world, data shows that education is highly correlated with democracy, and there are links between education and civic participation levels. For girls, education decreases the risk of early pregnancy and maternal death, and their own children will be twice as likely to go to school.
In the Gambia, young people have very limited access to books at home and in their schools, and we see very low literacy skills in the early years and across their schooling. This situation leaves Gambian children severely disadvantaged as reading and storytelling are powerful in the development of all children right from their very early years.
The Mbife Children's Community Library aims to address this and take steps towards cultivating a culture of reading, one community at a time.