The National Library of Uganda has been organising community reading tents since 2004. This is an activity where books are taken to the public/community for reading at leisure. The tent signifies the informal environment, which deviates from the formal way. Books for both adults and children, literates and neo-literates, English and local languages, are displayed on stands, tables and mats for the public to access. Such events normally run for two to three days.
To promote the development of a reading habit amongst children and adults
- To make available a variety of reading materials to the community
- To promote a shared enjoyment of reading for both children and adults
- To donate follow-up reading materials for functional adult literacy learners
- To donate books to participating schools to boost their school libraries
- To donate books to communities that are ready to start community libraries
- To give participants insight into the process of writing and other means of expression such as storytelling, poetry recitation, short dramas, songs and painting.
The tents are aimed at disadvantaged groups such as rural communities and the urban poor. These communities in most cases have limited access to reading materials due to poverty and the non-existence of such services in their communities. Teachers are encouraged to participate because they are in constant contact with the children and are able to influence their reading habits. This is because of the NLU conviction that developing a reading culture has to start with the children. Parents are also encouraged to participate because besides being encouraged to enjoy reading, they too can influence the children. The functional adult literacy learners as well as the general public are catered for.
Running a community reading tent involves a number of activities for both adults and children.
- Reading for leisure for all participants
- Read-aloud marathon which involves choosing a book of moderate length that appeals to the age group and asking each person to read aloud from the book for a set time or until the story reaches an exciting turn, then pass on the book to the next reader.
- Storytelling, poem recitals, quiz, debates, spelling and other competitive activities for both primary and secondary school students
- 4 Creative work like clay moulding, art work, and indoor games
- Adult learners reading and telling folk tales to the children
- Display of books and other information materials by NLU, local writers and booksellers, and any other interested persons.
- Participants as authors, where participants are asked to write and illustrate their own stories. After writing, they bind their work into book form.
- Book donations to participating schools.
- Book donation to communities that are willing to start a community library.
So far, reading tents have been held in Bugiri (November 2004),
Kiboga (March 2005), Kisanganti (April 2006), Kasese (June 2006), Kyabutayika-Nakasongola (September 2006), Kisoro (February 2007), Kalangala (June 2007), Buikwe (September 2007), Paidha (February 2008), Kampala (April 2008), Mpigi (July 2008), Mbarara (September 2008), Busia (February 2009), Kampala (April 2009), Tororo (June 2009), Ntinda-Kampala (April 2010).
In all reading tents so far held, both teachers and pupils as well as adults have appreciated the pleasure that reading can bring into one’s life. Some communities have started small libraries to enable them to collect reading materials that they can read for pleasure and for individual development. Community libraries are currently thriving in Kyabutayika, Kisoro, Buikwe and Paidha, while the Mbarara Public Library has in the past year seen a rise in the number of library users.