Inspiring Young Readers
Ethan Argent, the nine year old International Reading Ambassador
I was delighted when my nine year old nephew suggested that it was a good idea to read some books to children whilst on holiday visiting family in Uganda. He is a boy who has developed a love of books from an early age and is now a keen fan of Harry Potter and other books. I selected some picture books for him to take to three different schools where his mother had connections with teachers and he practised reading them several times before sharing them.
The first school was Shield Junior Academy in Bulaga, Kampala where I was impressed to hear that, before reading, he was ‘interviewed’ by the children who sat entranced as he confidently tried to explain about where he lived and what his school was like in comparison. He then read ‘Mr Grumpy's Motor Car’ by John Burningham and left the book with them to explore further. This classic story inspired some detailed drawings.
The next stop was Angels Nursery School in Fort Portal where he read ‘Does a Kangaroo have a Mother’? by Eric Carle to a large group of children sitting outside. Once again, they seemed rapt with attention and clearly enjoyed drawings pictures about the story afterwards.
His final stop was at Jollyland School in Kampala where he gave a by now very polished reading performance, this time of ‘The Lion Who Wanted To Love’ by Giles Andreae, illustrated by David Wojtowycz. The headteacher, Hannington Arinaitwe, contacted me to praise him with great enthusiasm:
‘It was amazing to see the passion Ethan exhibited as he read for and with the children. Quite an inspirational and touching experience ....As a young school, we are very keen on empowering our young ones to read as this is a tool that will impact their present and future positively’.
He also sent me some wonderful drawings which the children had produced after studying the book in further detail.
The photos below give a glimpse of Ethan’s Ugandan literary adventures. When he returned home, I asked him for some comments about his unusual experience:
‘At first I was nervous standing in front of the whole class with children all looking at me, but then I got more confident. They are well behaved and respect each other. They appreciate whatever you share with them even if small and they don’t have a lot of toys like our school and no computer or laptop plus screen in the class. Most of the children don't know any computer games and they don't use computers to do their homework at all’.
With very little technology at their disposal, it seems that physical books have a prominent place in Ugandan schools. They are highly appreciated and time is also given to producing creative art work in response to texts, which gives me food for thought. I am very proud of Ethan’s achievements as an international reading ambassador using picture books. Where will he go next?
(Click on any image below to view them in a slide show format)