Arusha Times (Arusha)

Tanzania: U.S. - River Children Pioneer E-Readers Program

Reading is suddenly fun again. Digitized classic story books, school books and magazines made available on a cool-looking digital device are making local Arusha children re-discover the magic of the written word.

This week, a total of 50 primary school pupils of Arusha have become the first recipients of technological reading devices that have made them access nearly 4000 digital books right from the palms of their hands.

The lucky pioneers for the 'e-readers' project being executed under the 'Worldreader' organization of US are the pupils of Upendo Primary School in Usa-River area of Meru, an institution which received 60 Amazon Kindle readers (each with onboard keyboard) for its class Five and Six pupils as well as their teachers.

"We expect to ship in 100 more reading devices next year," said Mr Michael Smith the Partnership Development Manager for 'Worldreader,' who revealed that his organization plans to reach over 200 million children 'who do not have access to books' in Africa.

Smith revealed that more than 3000 such e-readers have been distributed in Kenya, Ghana, Uganda, Rwanda, Malawi, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Arusha is the first area in Tanzania to get the devices, with more expected for other schools next year when other countries like Ethiopia will also benefit.

Ms Digna Massawe who teaches English, Mathematics, Science and Kiswahili subjects at Upendo Primary School said the new concept of reading from an electronic device has breathed new life into the children's reading culture.

"And it is encouraging school attendance because even those in lower classes, will strive to work harder in order to reach class Five, Six and Seven where pupils get to use e-readers in class," said the Madam.

A class six pupil, Hassan Said, aged 12 said with 3500 books inside a small and light e-reader, he may soon ditch his cumbersome school bag with its heavy volumes of mostly text books.

The distributed 'Kindles' also have text to speech feature which allows pupils to read text and listen to the related audio which may come in useful to help them pronounce words correctly.

The Kindles' high-contrast 'E Ink' display delivers clear, crisp text and images that you can read without eye strain. For extended periods of reading, 'E Ink' displays deliver the best reading experience.

The Arusha-based, AFRICAID Tanzania is undertaking the e-book distribution project in the country and the program manager Ms Devotha Mlay pointed out that, apart from 'Kindles' other types of e-readers will also be considered in future.

Worldreader is a US based nonprofit, public charity involved in developing and delivering e-reader technology. The organization helps provide access to books for children in developing countries throughout the world.

Children in the Worldreader program have access to materials ranging from hundreds of local African textbooks and story-books, world newspapers, and classic literature from around the world.

Students can read books from African authors like Meshack Asare and Chika Unigwe, Roald Dahl and the Magic Tree House stories, and learn from local Ghanaian and Kenyan textbooks.

By giving students access to a range of books by both local and international authors, Worldreader wants to empower students and communities to improve their education and lives.

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