U.S. Ambassador Thomas F. Daughton remarks for the Handover of the USAID Library Book Donation to the Ministry of Education, Arts & Culture National Library
Good morning! It is a real pleasure to be here with all of you today on the wonderful occasion of donating 36,500 books to the Ministry of Education, Arts & Culture. The great physicist and Nobel Prize winner Albert Einstein once said, “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want your children to be really intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” Now, not all of the books we’re handing over today are books of fairy tales, but what Einstein said is true for every kind of book: reading stories aloud is the most important thing we can do for children.
So on behalf of the American people and for the children of Namibia, I am proud to present these books, valued at N$3.9 million, as a gift to Namibia’s education system. These books, which were funded by my government through the U.S. Agency for International Development, will be distributed to 47 schools in all 14 regions, as well as to one community library and to the three Regional Study and Resource Centers that were built in Namibia by the United States Millennium Challenge Account.
There are three basic reasons why we’re making this donation of books. First and foremost, this gift is part of our larger effort to nurture and support a culture of reading in Namibian schools. We also are seeking to increase access to library books for learners across the country. And last but certainly not least, we want to give learners a chance to participate in this year’s annual National Read-a-thon, which is scheduled for September.
Through this donation, we want Namibian children to learn to cherish good books, to read as often as possible, and to enjoy reading as a constructive way of spending their time. To achieve that, USAID, in close collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Arts, and Culture and Peace Corps Namibia, carefully selected the 47 schools and four libraries to receive culturally and age-appropriate books for primary and secondary school children across the country.
Most of the schools receiving books already have Peace Corps education Volunteers teaching in them. By selecting Peace Corps-supported schools, we hope to ensure that the Volunteers can help coordinate the use of the books, while assisting learners to prepare for and participate in the Ministry’s annual National Read-a-thon.
I know we live in an age of Internet and smartphones, of viral YouTube clips, Facebook chats, tweets and WhatsApp messages, but I want to encourage everyone to rediscover – or for some learners, maybe to discover for the first time – the simple pleasure of curling up with a good book. Research has clearly shown that reading books from an early age equips children with the vocabulary to communicate at higher levels and to excel in problem solving. Reading also improves children’s comprehension and study skills, and builds their self-esteem and social awareness.
Books open your imagination and ignite your creativity. They do things that a WhatsApp message that has two misspelled words and three emojis can never do. That’s why they say “a book is a dream that you hold in your hand.”
So today, we’re not just handing over 36,500 books, but 36,500 dreams. Dreams that you can pursue; dreams that can make you more successful, open-minded, stronger, and better people.
To all the teachers, principals, and Peace Corps Volunteers here today, thank you. Thank you for your enthusiasm and commitment to providing your learners with the opportunity to access these books, to help them appreciate the value of reading, and to hold these dreams in their hands.
I am delighted we have this occasion to celebrate our longstanding partnership in education. Even more, I am proud our two countries continue to cooperate on important educational initiatives throughout Namibia, and especially to provide much needed support to underserved communities in this country.
To the principals here today, you play the most important role in setting the tone and strategy in your schools. I think we all know that it takes more than the English teacher to help children learn to love to read. It takes a whole school, with everyone from the principal on down talking about how important reading is. There are all sorts of ways you can do this, from getting older students to read to younger students to inviting community leaders to school assemblies to talk about how important reading has been in their lives. Many of you already are doing these things, and we want to support you as you think about how the whole school can be involved in teaching learners to love reading.
To the teachers, my mother-in-law, Kathie, is a teacher of young children, so I particularly want to thank you for your work. Kathie likes to say, “I teach young children how to read, which is something no one can take away from them!” Teachers, I hope you are proud of the incredibly valuable work you are doing for the children.
To parents and caregivers, the best gift we can give to our children is the love of reading. Study after study shows that it is the most important skill a child can have. We all can give this gift by reading aloud to our children, by encouraging to them read to us, and by giving them reading material.
To you learners, one last word: I hope that you will make good use of these books, and I urge all of you to continue reading, studying hard, and performing well. Without your participation and determination, this reading program cannot be a success. In fact, without you there is no reading program at all!
Above all, I wish you success as you prepare for the annual Read-a-thon. I want you all to discover the pleasure of reading – because it is a gift that will stay with you throughout your lives. If you work hard and commit yourselves to life-long learning through reading, new opportunities will emerge and your dreams will come true.