Storymoja Festival: Reading is so cool!

I was washing the dishes in the kitchen one day when Hailey brought her plastic chair and sat behind me. She had her bible story books in her hands. She had; The Miracles of Jesus, Joseph and His Brothers, and The Birth of Jesus. I asked her what she was up to and she told me that she wanted to read. She started reading quietly. “Why don’t you read aloud?” I asked her. She read aloud and I listened as I did the dishes.
It was an interesting dish-washing experience. I got to listen to my six year old daughter read and I was able to teach her how to pronounce difficult words in the process. I am happy to have a daughter who reads because reading is a good thing.
I remember my father buying us storybooks when we were young. Each one of us owned a book that we held onto for a long time. They included Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,Charles Dicken’s Hard Times & David Copperfield, and Anthony Hope’s The Prisoner of Zenda.
Growing up, I saw my father grab a book and get immersed in it so dedicatedly. There was a shelf full of books (which exists to this day) from where we would once in a while make our own selection and share in the reading  experience. That experience was invaluable.
Since then, I have read books that left me shaking my head in disapproval or nodding my head furiously in approval. With every book, I have been able to learn. A lot. My emotions have been stirred by authors who made me cry and laugh. I have been angered, while on other occasions, I have been deeply impressed. Books have had me thinking about stuff. I have changed my opinion about stuff. I have made discoveries, travelled to different worlds with different people in different times. Reading has made me learn. It has made me write better. Speak better. It has helped shape my dreams. It has sharpened my mind.
I am glad to have had the chance to peep into the reading culture and entering deeper and deeper, to a point of no return. I am aware of the transformation that happens between the time one opens a book to begin reading from the first page, to the time one closes the same book having read it to the last page. I am privy of the fact that every book one reads does not leave one the same way it found them. That we learn from each reading experience. I want the same for my children.  
Reading is cool. I know that. Do you know that? The Storymoja Festival begins this Wednesday the 17th through to the 21stof September. During the festival, there are events that will be too important to miss. Case in point is the Reading is cool! Kusoma ni Poa!  event that will be held on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 8.30 to 9.15am. This reading anthem (click here to listen) will be sung by the Grace Children’s Centre choir. They will perform and launch their CD during the festival. Listen in. Dance to it. Teach it to your children- I intend to teach it to Hailey and Heidi too. Share it and let it become a powerful tool for spreading the reading culture in Nairobi and beyond.
If I will be anything, I will not be that mother who never taught her children the importance of reading. A reading child is a knowledgeable child. A knowledgeable child is a strong child. A strong child is a grounded child, a confident child. If my reading has anything to do with who I have become, then I can confidently say that a reading child is a fearless child. Unashamed to live their lives the best way they deem fit. A reading child grows to become a sage.
During these times when the reading culture in Nairobi has degenerated due to the attention given to video games and cartoons as the quintessential pastime for children, you need to introduce your children to the magical experience that comes with holding a book between their hands. Read for them. Read with them. Encourage them to read for you. Read together. Read.
Since you guys are dear to me, I will give one of you a complimentary ticket to the Storymoja Festival to be held at the Nairobi National Museum. If you are interested in attending the weekend events on the 20thor 21st Sept, all you need to do is to email me between now and Thursday at renee.murrey@gmail.comand share with me what your favourite book is to date and why.
The Storymoja Festival weekend events include a session with Dr. Kinyanjui Nganga on Parenting and Marriage, a children’s book launch of The Lizard and the Rockwith author Joanne Ball-Burgess, a discussion with award winning Kenyan journalist Jeff Koinange as he talks about his memoir- Through My African Eyes, a Wangari Maathai Memorial Lecture delivered by Nobel Laureate Prof. Wole Soyinka from Nigeria (I know!). There will be exhibitions, talks by Tony Mochama aka Smitta, Caine Prize winners – Okwiri Oduor and Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor (I know!) There will be hot conversations, Poetry, storytelling, Mchongoano, film screening… Go on, hit my inbox and grab that ticket!
Oh, almost forgot – Sauti Sol will also be there. I Know! (sigh!) They together with Berry Heart of Botswana and Dizraeli from UK will steer the Jaza Matatu na vitabu concertto raise money for www.startalibrary.orgin order to stock libraries in schools. Storymoja Festival attendees will literally get to jaza matatu na vitabu. Reading is such serious business!
Do me a favor and let your children, your young nieces, nephews, brothers, sisters…this young generation, let them know that reading is cool. Reading is oh-so-cool!
Have a cool week!

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