The Intergenerational Impact of a Rural Community Library on Young Children’s Learning Readiness in a Ugandan Village

The Intergenerational Impact of a Rural Community Library on Young Children’s Learning Readiness in a Ugandan Village

Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 50
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5043-5.ch006
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Abstract

Two cohorts of caregivers and preschool children residing in two rural Ugandan villages were recruited to identify the predictors of children’s learning readiness. Caregiver and child variables hypothetically associated with emergent literacy skills included caregiver’s medical health quality, caregiver depression, frequency of caregiver reading and storytelling to their children, and the child’s quality of attachment to the caregiver, which partially determines the attentional resources a child can commit to learning. The findings suggest that caregiver discomfort associated with poor medical health quality might allow caregivers to spend more time at home, where they can distract themselves with less physically demanding tasks such as reading and telling stories to their children. Their children’s more highly developed ability to inhibit their impulses might reflect their preoccupation with minimizing their caregivers’ discomfort. This ability might facilitate the development of emergent literacy skills in a culture that rewards paying strict attention to rote learning over creatively expressing oneself. If inhibitory control ideally prepares children for the hierarchical classroom environment that awaits them, it remains to be seen how children who participate in the STSA activity—which encourages self-expression through collectively acting out the children’s own stories—will perform in such a restrictive classroom setting.
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Western-Style Public Library Systems

A frequently cited reason for the astounding illiteracy rate in Uganda and, indeed, on the entire continent, is the public library system founded on colonialist assumptions (Alemna, 1995; Mostert, 1998; Rosenberg, 1993; Stilwell, 1989, 1991). These public libraries, generally located outside rural communities and thus inconvenient to most of the population, are based on a passive, Western model of information transmission oriented toward the culture, needs, and language of the African colonizers, whether they were English, French, German, Italian, or Portuguese. In the public library system, “the needs of the colonized were subservient, if considered at all” (Stilwell, 1989, p. 264) and have historically functioned as “a reflection of colonial interests and priorities” (Ekpe, 1979, p. 5). Consequently, Africans across the continent developed distrust of printed material (and we would suggest of literacy itself) because of its use in the spread of pro-colonial propaganda (Stilwell, 1989). In South Africa, for example, Stilwell (1989, 1991) has carefully documented colonizers’ intentional efforts to block curious Africans from using the public library system altogether.

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