Building a library: Sippican School, Elizabeth Taber Library aim to grow literacy in Africa

Apr 5, 2018

Most people in the tri-town have grown up swimming in books. In local libraries, in schools and at home, books are everywhere.

Not every place is as lucky, though. To help remedy this, Sippican School and the Elizabeth Taber Library are teaming up to collect 1,000 books, and $500 for shipping, to send to Kaphira Primary School in Malawi, a country in eastern Africa.

“I was looking for a project I could do with my kids, and I came across the African Library Project,” Taber Library Assistant Danae Arone said. “I thought it could help all the kids in town. It’s a good way to broaden their horizons. We’re so sheltered here.”

The African Library Project is a non-profit organization based in New Orleans that coordinates book drives in the United States and partners with African schools and villages to start small libraries.

The library and the school is aiming to collect 1,000 gently used books between April 29 and May 5, to ship to Malawi.

“We’re taking books for reading levels from pre-school through fourth grade,” Arone said. “We’ll take baby board books, picture books, chapter books.”

Arone has three kids at Sippican School herself, and said when she showed them the videos from the African Library Project’s website, they were “floored.”

“I wanted to show them that the way we live isn’t the norm,” she said.

Arone, Children’s Librarian Rosemary Grey and Sippican School Librarian Jess Barrett are working together to show kids how fortunate they are, and encourage them to want to help others.

“These children [in Malawi] don’t have books, teachers don’t have books to teach,” Grey said. “That type of poverty is something these kids can never imagine.”

In sending books to help establish a library, Arone said, the goal is to help promote literacy.

“Literacy is the number one key to getting them out of poverty,” she explained. “It gives them that knowledge. It opens doors. It’s very empowering.”

In her home, Arone said she has bookshelves full of books her family hasn’t touched in years, while some schools in other countries only have one or two books total.

“I want [my kids] to understand they have a lot,” Arone said.

Barrett is currently working with the sixth graders at Sippican School to produce a public service announcement about the initiative to show the rest of the students.

The women hope that the students will be able to connect with the project knowing it will be helping other kids their own age.

“I like the idea of having the connection of a sister school,” Grey said. “They’re going to see kids that are just like them…It’s such a different lifestyle, it can be hard to fathom even as adults.”

Ultimately, they just hope they can help people.

“Book really open up the world,” Arone said. “I’m so excited to give that to other kids.”