Joseph Dax, an A Level student at Tavistock College was so inspired by our article in the last Winter Issue of Moor Links about local charity Book Bus, that he duly volunteered and headed off for two weeks this summer to Zambia to play his part in encouraging local children to get reading. On his return he kindly put this article together to tell us of his memorable experience.
Have you ever been attacked by a crocodile? My trip to Livingstone, Zambia as a Book Bus volunteer left me with a very lasting impression! Camping in the grounds of ‘Grubby’s Grotto’, an old colonial residence, myself and the other volunteers set off early each morning, trundling down winding dusty roads and tracks in the trusty (but rather bumpy) Book Bus.
With one of my groups of children, we read together the book ‘I really want to eat a child’ about a deluded baby crocodile named Achilles.
Afterwards, they all made their own crocodiles from cardboard, which subsequently ate me alive! Still hungry, the newly created crocodiles then proceeded to chomp on all the pencils and bits of paper they could find around the table until break-time when they escaped onto the playground to eat all the other children. Joking aside, the children loved reading about Achilles and the creative task really helped them to engage with the story. I would like to think that it contributed to helping them improve and enjoy reading a little bit more than before.
As a child, I had an insatiable appetite for reading, and I still do. It is a cliché, I know, but a passion for reading really can open the door to a world of opportunity. I believe that the journalist AC Crayling aptly describes the opportunities of literacy: “to read is to fly; it is to soar to a vantage which gives a view over the wide terrains of history, human variety, ideas, shared experience and the fruits of many enquiries”.
As the aeroplane began its ascent from Livingstone airport I could see an aerial view of the awe inspiring Victoria Falls thundering away in the gorge below, with the mighty Zambezi River gliding into the horizon. This got me thinking about Crayling’s metaphor and, it was then that the significance of increasing literacy in the developing world and the importance of Book Bus’ work started to sink in.
PS. I did meet some ‘real’ crocodiles on a riverbank; thankfully I was not eaten alive by any of them!