Tuesday, February 2, 2016

In support of English literacy and a love of learning


In support of English literacy /
Students benefiting from the Morocco Library Project.

During a recent walk through Town & Country Village, an upscale outdoor shopping mall in Palo Alto, California, near Stanford University, I crossed paths with a most interesting window display at independent bookseller Books, Inc., that immediately captured my attention.

Instead of witnessing a display of current New York Times best-selling books, I glimpsed a colorful collection of young adult books, including Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, The Major Poetry of Ralph Waldo Emerson and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Books, Inc. window display /
Promoting awareness of the Morocco Library Project. 
In the center of the window display were a pair of signs. One read: Morocco Library Project. The other: Support the Morocco Library Project with Books Inc.! A similar display featuring children's literature awaited customers inside the bookstore, too.

What I learned is this: The Morocco Library Project is Americans and Moroccans building libraries together in support of English learners in Morocco. The group has a Facebook page and you can also find them via LinkedIn.

The mission of the Morocco Library Project is simple: It is designed to inspire and support English literacy and a love of learning in Morocco, and to build a lasting bridge of friendship and peace between East and West. In Morocco, most students learn to speak English as their third language -- yes, third -- after their native Arabic and French.

According to the organization's website, I learned: "We strive to work with underserved communities, where a single library will make a huge difference. For each location, we work with teachers to understand the particular need and to curate a collection of books and other materials for the students and community. The students do a lot of the work putting the library together. This is truly a partnership."

The Morocco Library Project launched its first project, the Erfoud Library, at the Lycée Moulay Rachid, in April 2015. It is located in the eastern part of the country near the Algerian border. I learned that this library supports highly motivated students from under-privileged families in an after-school program called English Access, and it's also open to other students in the area. While interest in learning English is rapidly growing, until recently, there were few resources to support it.

A love of learning /
Young students at the Erfoud Library in Morocco.
However, thanks to the effort of the Morocco Library Project, both in the U.S. and abroad, about 650 books for all ages and in a variety of genres, including art, geography, literature, nature, and science -- as well as Kindles, games, puzzles and an extensive collection of National Geographic magazines -- dot the colorful library. The collection includes about 100 children's books, too.

After a successful launch of the Erfoud Library last year, the Morocco Library Project is now starting new libraries in Taroudant and Essmara in the south, and in Tétouan in the north, for a girls' high school, the Lycée Khadija Oum El Mouminine, near Gibraltar. All are in underserved communities with students eager to study English.

Recently, Moroccan author Laila Lalami, who last year won the Arab American Book Award for her most recent novel The Moor's Account, donated autographed copies of her books to the Moroccan Library Project for distribution in its libraries.

Last month, the Minister of Education in Morocco launched a new nationwide program, CIRCLE (Club of Instructional Resources for Culture and Language Enhancement), and the Erfoud Library was selected as one of the first locations.

So, as you can see, good things are happening with this meaningful organization as they strive to turn collections of books into libraries.

The Morocco Library Project is funded entirely by donations from the public. To learn more about this worthwhile project and how to donate, visit their website: http://www.moroccolibraries.org.

Photos: Window display at Books, Inc. by Michael Dickens. Morocco Library Project photos courtesy of their website.

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