Queens LitClub Story
By LitClub Mentor Monicah Kyalo
LitClubs have been a wonderful literacy program to bring change and joy to students at some of Kenya Connect’s partner schools. I want to share a brief story about the Queens LitClub as I reflect back upon their graduation.
On the very first day when we visited Ngangani Primary School, the LitClub mentor team was deliberating whether we should work with grade 5 or 6 and two of the teachers weighed in. “Class 6 students are better and lively compared to class 5 which is so dull. Their performance is really poor. You should work with class 6,” said one of the teachers. Our LitClub mentors disagreed and asked to work with grade 5. As they first met the grade 5 class, it was full of smiling faces who were eager to learn.
I worked with the girls. When I went to their classroom everything was still. Nothing moved and the first session began. The girls were asked to come up with a name for their club, a name they would own. “QUEENS” was the name they joyfully announced. It was a superb name for the girls. Do you know what it symbolizes? Female power. Girls supporting girls. Ladies supporting ladies. Women supporting women. Next, they chose adjectives starting with their first letter of their names. They struggled to come up with positive adjectives. A Few tried: Faithful Faith, Shining Sharon, Marvelous Mwende, and Nice Ndanu. At first the girls were really shy. They feared to try. They were not confident enough with themselves, and that was okay.
In every session, we sang a hello song to welcome everyone and the girls read a storybook on a weekly basis. We did a read-aloud every time we met. In addition, a check-in question was introduced each session that acted as an ice-breaker and community building activity. The ice-breakers are fun games; we always laughed. It helped me bond with the girls and it helped us all to grow, to share and to learn together. Every session ended with a praise circle and goodbye song. We praise everyone for their accomplishments. Students always left the session feeling happy, capable, and super confident.
During sessions, we supported one another with rounds of applause, shooting stars and kissing your brains. These forms of praise and affirmations during LitClubs resulted in the girls smiling broadly and the sense of excitement of who they are being! It blessed my soul knowing that the girls didn’t leave the sessions the same way they came in.
Belonging. Curiosity. Friendship. Kindness. Confidence. Courage. Hope. These are the 7 LitWorld strengths which we covered throughout the two year program. LitClub was very interesting and educational for the girls. Girls started having a sense of belonging. The ones who were ignored in the past were given a platform of expressing themselves. They even conducted a read aloud! We had a safe space where we celebrated everyone. The girls become more curious. They tried out new things and they valued the gift of friendship and care for one another. The students became empowered and had a new sense of responsibility which resulted in them completing teachers’ assignments on time, which made their teachers and parents happier.
As the sessions continued, I noticed that the students became more kind to one another. Words like, thank you, sorry, excuse me, and can I help you became more common in their daily lives. It encouraged empathy and generosity which helped to combat bullying. A good number also didn’t fear being wrong. During discussions or presentations, they became more confident. As Sloane Stevens once said, “When you have confidence, you can do anything.”
During Litfests and graduation ceremonies, the Queens LitClub members did astounding presentations. Teachers and parents could not believe how the girls managed to talk in front of a big gathering and talk courageously! This was a great achievement since the girls who feared to speak in their small circle were now doing it in front of everyone. They acquired a strong voice. Teacher Mtua shared, “I can confess that I have seen a total transformation in this class, they have totally changed. They developed a love for reading and they started completing their assignments and class work.”
In life, ups and downs are inevitable. Even for the students. Courage is the weapon and I am happy that they gained it through LitClub. They stand up for what is right and face the difficulties courageously. Hope is thinking optimistically and believing that today’s effort will produce good things in the future for yourself and for the world. Two years came to an end. Sadly. The experience has been one of a kind, sharing laughter, making fun, reading, writing, drawing together. Singing. Dancing. Queens LitClub members can really sing and dance. They do it so well and with passion. I have been privileged to witness the positive change taking place in their lives.
As I have reflected on the Queen’s LitClub, I have been struck that the group of students that teachers described as “dull” are now confident learners. LitClub made them love books, reading, writing, and drawing. Their communication has improved and it is impressive to see their transformation. Witnessing this youth empowerment has brought me great joy.