The after-school program at Tembisa Baptist Church doesn’t have the sponsors that Arebaokeng has. They aren’t even sponsored by the church, which charges rent for the use of their old building and office space in a converted house on the property. But they run a crèche and feed a hundred children a day.
When I returned last week, I brought my computer so the kids could see a slideshow of the pictures we took before I left in July 2008. I say “we” because they went off with my camera and took better candids than I would ever have gotten! Now they crowded around the computer and squealed with delight at the faces of themselves and their friends.
I read The Christmas Story since tinsel and garlands of evergreen already decorate the shops here. We also read Lulama’s Long Way Home and laughed at the little girl’s clever ways of getting away from the dangerous animals she meets as she tries to find her way home.
“What was the point of that story you read?” one of the caregivers asked when the children were settled with books from the bin I left in 2008.
“It’s just for fun,” I explained. She looked disappointed.
“But reading aloud in English helps them to learn the language, and on this page we practiced counting with the silly baboons.”
I continued. “I want them to think of books as fun. The more they read, the better they will do in school.”
A light passed over her face as though reading without a learning agenda was a new and pleasant idea to her.
It was mass chaos as the children read, exchanged books to read some more, or crowded around me to share their reading skills or just to touch my hair. “See how much they enjoy it,” I said. “Why don’t you pull the book bin out every week?”
Just maybe it will happen.