Girl Heroes: Nchimunya - the book club pioneer

Meet the Zambian girl who’s sharing her newfound love of reading with her community

On International Literacy Day on 8 September, we'll be reminding the world that educated, literate girls are the key to breaking intergenerational cycles of poverty.

Our Girl Heroes series, which highlights inspiring individuals who are making the girl effect a reality, shows how one girl's education can change whole communities for the better... 

Nchimunya is an avid reader, but she hasn't always been that way.

She used to dread English class in her primary school in Zambia. She struggled with reading and hated having to read aloud. She would sit in silence to avoid having to participate.

All that changed last year when Room to Read, an NGO working to improve literacy and promote girls' education in Asia and Africa, opened a library in her school.

Libraries and books are much-needed resources for schools, particularly in a country like Zambia, where only 64 per cent of women can read and write.

A girl who grows up able to read has a skill that will ultimately help her to get a job, be financially independent and make healthier life choices that will have a positive impact on her family.

A child born to a mother who can read is twice as likely to survive past the age of five.

Inspired to read

Thanks to the library, Nchimunya will be able to make her own choices.

She was encouraged by her friend Romney to visit the library. Romney often took books home and read them in his spare time. He would read aloud to Nchimunya so she could follow along.

Inspired, she borrowed a few books herself and took them home. With some help from her older sister, she began to enjoy reading on her own.

Now Nchimunya spends a lot of spare time in the library. She volunteers as a librarian's assistant: reshelving books, sweeping floors and helping her classmates with their reading. 

She has also started a book club with Romney at school. They share stories they've read and recommend books to students.

And the ripple effect has continued into her community; Nchimunya reads aloud to her family in the evenings and to her friends and neighbours in church. Not everyone is literate, but the younger generation are working to change the status quo.

She's no longer afraid of reading in English class. She's beaten her fear and now is determined to help many others do the same.

Read more about Room to Read's work

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