In Burundi, 86.9 percent of people can read, but they lack access to books. World Vision has brought books to a community through a special center, and one mother and daughter are enjoying the benefits.
Nathalie Buzeba rarely spends a day without reading. The 48-year-old rural mother’s craving for the written word destroys the common assumption that Burundi has no reading culture.
Traditionally, Burundians have inherited an oral tradition, passing stories down by word of mouth instead of reading. Still, Burundi has an 86.9 percent literacy rate.
“It is not a lack of a reading culture, but a lack of reading materials,” says Nathalie, who smiles as she holds a 10-page book she uses to teach her daughter, Diella, how to read and write.
World Vision’s Reading to Learn Project is helping debunk the myth by providing children and adults easy access to books. As a result, Diella borrows books from a nearby World Vision reading camp, and even Nathalie enjoys exploring the tales Diella brings home.
“I always take pleasure in reading these books because there are many interesting stories,” Nathalie says. The stories are all new to the woman who only finished sixth grade 40 years ago.
The books help Nathalie teach Diella how to better read.
“Before this project, there were no reading books,” Nathalie explains. “Those who were lucky were those who could have access to the small Bible.”
In addition to the books, she also uses unconventional materials to help Diella learn.
“I sometimes use banana leaves or use that door,” Nathalie says, pointing to the house door. She writes on the leaves or the door and encourages Diella to imitate her writing. Diella also practices reading aloud what she writes.
Now, Diella knows how to read and write and is doing extremely well in first grade. One trimester she even finished first in her class.
Fidele Nindagiye, an education specialist for World Vision in Burundi, wants more children like Diella to become enthralled with books. His dream is to see this next generation of Burundians change from nonreaders to readers, with this World Vision project serving as a catalyst in that process. The seeds of reading have been sown in this community, and the harvest is starting to come in.