The Little Porch Library

By Joan Komolafe
July 28, 2017

Throughout orientation, I continually wondered where I would be assigned?

During Pre-Service Training at the Peace Corps Office

When would my site be revealed? What would the living conditions be like? I knew a little about some of the places I could end up and the needs of the assignments, but there was still the "What would it be like?" sense of anticipation. I was relieved to learn I would be staying in a town in the Kakata district. 

What is my home and work site like?

A visit to my new home introduced me to what seemed like every child who lived here. "Oh, they're just curious," I thought as they spilled out of the porch and milled around the Peace Corps SUV. 

I soon learned otherwise. On moving day, they were there to greet me. During the first few days, I learned if I wanted to know where anything was or needed help of any kind, I should ask Jojo. He was assigned to me. 

Prayer sitting on Joan's porch

With not much to entertain themselves, the children usually hang out on my porch playing and chatting loudly with each other.  I had not seen any toys among them. However, I saw them play with sticks, rocks and empty cans. 

One day as I sat reading, one of the girls, Prayer, came over and wanted to know what I was doing. “Reading,” I responded. She said nothing, just stood there looking at me as I read. A few days later the same thing happened. I asked her if she would like a book to read.

“Mi caan read ma,” she replied.

“I’ll show you,” I said.

“Yu will?” she asked incredulously.

“Sure,” I said.

“Okay, mi cookin', but a comin' back,” she stated.

I went inside and found a few books I thought she would be able to start with; true to her word, she was back as soon as she finished cooking. We sat together and I read the book to her as a crowd gathered around us. The next day she came back and brought a friend. 

This led to my porch becoming “The Little Porch Library”; I loan books to whoever wanted to borrow one. We have since grown from 16 books to about 50. From one little girl (Prayer is 12 and in the first grade) to her 4-year-old brother, teenagers, even her mother! 

Joan with children from the Little Porch Library

Everything is not perfect as the children must be taught the books are not gifts but must be returned (yes, there have been a few who have chosen to keep/sell books) and how to handle them (one child wrote all over the book he borrowed). But it’s a learning process, especially when this is something unavailable in their schools and unheard of in their community.

Lending a few books is a small thing, but I observed its impact in my community. Children are encouraged to read to each other, learn to read sight words, practice spelling using letters written on bottle caps, get help with homework and cooperate and play with each other without hitting (for the most part). Although “The Little Porch Library” participants have been mostly children and attendance fluctuates based on their activities, the Library has allowed me to get to know my neighbors and become more aware of community happenings. The community members know they have to take ownership of the Library and it will succeed with their support. They also know that when I leave, it will be up to them to continue "The Little Porch Library."

One of the youngest readers at the Library.