Summer is for reading!
School may be out, but it’s hardly vacation at Esther’s House! Our teachers, staff and missionaries will continue working full steam ahead because a summer vacation just isn’t something that our children can afford. “A lot of our kids just can’t go a whole summer without some sort of academic work,” Catherine said. “They’re already struggling not to fall behind.” And yet no child wants to continue the routine of classrooms and lectures all summer long.
So our team has put together an exciting, fun summer program that will keep our kiddos learning, active and engaged—all while having a blast! “When we were living in the US, we used to always take advantage of the summer reading programs at our library,” Catherine said. “So I thought we could do something similar.”
Every day, the children are welcome to come as early as they want. A lot of them don’t have much to do at home, so we find them waiting outside the gates as soon as they open. If they come before lunch, their time is pretty unstructured. They can play—or head to the library and read. A lot opt for the latter because for every 10 books they read, they get to put their name in for a drawing with some pretty fantastic prizes: a nice dinner in the city, a trip to the chip stand, a popsicle party… “Even my own kids want in on it,” Catherine said. Whatever the motivation may be, if our kids are reading, we’re happy! Reading really helps build their English vocabulary, even among kids who aren’t formally studying it in school yet.
After lunch, the formal activities get started. On Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays, the children have spiritual development classes with Pastor Stanley. And on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, the teachers put together games, stories, activities and crafts based around a specific theme. This year, their theme is “Reach for the Stars:” an exploration of different career opportunities. Each week will focus on a different career: we’ll read books about it, make related crafts, play games… our missionaries, intern and short-term team members all put in a lot of extra work at the end of the school year to get everything ready! But that’s not even the best part: every week, we’ll get to welcome a member of the community who works in that field to share about what they do. We’ve got some great people lined up! A pastor, a nurse from the hospital in the city, the principal of the elementary school in the village, a carpenter—even a police officer.
“The idea is just to expose the kids to all the different opportunities out there for them,” Catherine said. “ Sometimes, I just don’t think they see themselves outside the village. No one from their family has left. And we always tell them, ‘If you want to live and work in the village, you can do that. But just know that you can choose to do something if you want to.’ We just want to encourage them to dream a bit.” Our Malawian teacher Mishek asked the children to write out their dream careers on stars and hung them from the ceiling in the library as a symbol of this.
This will be our second year doing the summer reading program and everyone is so excited! The kids love it, the teachers say it makes a huge difference and we love how it keeps everyone engaged and involved. And we couldn’t do any of it without our beautiful, wonderful library…. Which is where we could use your help. Some of our older kids are running out of books to read! We brought our current collection over in a container a few years ago and it has been a great start for us, but we need to continue growing it. Luckily, that’s something you can do from right where you are. Better World Books sells used books for reduced prices online… and ships anywhere in the world FOR FREE. That means that you can go to their website right now and order us a set of Judy Blume books from your computer in Oklahoma—and ship them to our address in Malawi! Here is our address, by the way:
P.O. Box 234