Thursday, December 04, 2014

New Children's Library for Fez Medina

Local schoolgirl Iman, 5, says she plans to go regularly to the new library

The Medina Children's Library of Fez is set to open in late January. For 4 to 10 year olds, it aims to encourage literacy and a love of reading in the children of the Fez Medina community
"The library seeks to be a welcoming place where children have easy access to age and culturally appropriate books and resources," says committee member Kim Fritschi. "They can browse and read books at the library, participate in Story Time, where books are read aloud to a small group, as well as borrow books to take home to read and share with their families."

While literacy levels in Morocco as a whole are around 70%, in the Fez Medina the figure is considerably lower. Yet, despite their high internet and television use, many young Moroccans do understand the appeal of books. Student Rita Belamlih says "Reading gives me a break from the chaos of life. It's a time when you can create your world and you can understand yourself; your emotions and thoughts clearly."

The library will be located at 41 Zkak Raouah

Donations of children's books in Arabic, French, English and picture books are wanted for the new library. And it also needs a librarian - someone who speaks and writes Arabic and French, and can interact well with the local community.

A two room shop space has been rented at 41 Zkak Raouah, off the Ta'laa Seghira, and it is currently being converted. The main room will have carpet, cushions, and a variety of books.

"We are starting with a small space, and if the community supports it, we hope to expand later," says Cathy Bellafronto of Riad Laaroussa, who is one of the founding donors of the non-profit project, along with The View From Fez.

The regular Story Time sessions will be done by volunteers. "We've had lots of students offering to do this," says Suzanna Clarke of The View From Fez. "Particularly from the ALC Community Service Club. They really like the idea of reading to the children, and helping them to explore ideas."

The interior of the library is being extensively renovated 

The children's library will be open every day after school, and on Wednesday afternoons and all day on weekends. While access is free, borrowing is by subscription and it will cost 20 dirhams per year for a family to borrow two books for up to two weeks.

Other sponsors and sources of funds to keep the library going in the longer term are being sought.

"We also want to find others, particularly local Moroccans, to be involved in the organisational side, so we can gradually step back," said Cathy. "The idea is that it will be a space for the community, and will evolve according to need and the support we have."

"When you go into houses in the Medina, most people have television and many can access the internet on their phones, but they often don't have any books apart from the Koran. While the Koran is naturally an important book to have, reading skills are essential for success in the modern world. And while some parents may be illiterate themselves, they understand that reading is a skill that's vital for their children."

To donate or for more info on the librarian's position, email
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