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A library for kids in a backyard

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A Cape Flats dad has converted his backyard into a library to encourage the children in his neighbourhood to read. What better news to close Library Week?

The homemade library in Hillview boasts over 5 000 books, and you can find anything from fairytales to encyclopaedias. Now father-of-two John Nicholson’s home gets dozens of little visitors every day, eager to learn and read.
John, assisted by his son Ryan, 23, turned his garage into a colourful library, and those who enter are greeted with the words: “Siyafunda – we are reading.” The library is one of John’s many “Omegaview” community projects, started 10 years ago with a soup kitchen, and which has blossomed over the years. John’s passion to help those in need stems from the fact that he grew up without a dad.
“So now I am a friend and a dad to them,” he tells Daily Voice. “When they have a test to prepare for and assignments, I assist them. We use the encyclopaedia to do the research as there is no computer or internet here. On Fridays I let them play games like dominoes, which helps with mathematics, and kerrem which is good for hand and eye co-ordination.”
Ryan adds: “This gives them skills and a good foundation when they go to school.”
John believes education is the key to bring about change in a community ravaged by gangsterism and drugs.
He also says children are too wrapped up in technology: “I saw this as a great opportunity to expose children to books because they are drawn to tablets, TV and PlayStations.”
The upholsterer relies on donations and also uses money out of his own pocket to keep his initiative alive. “I receive my books from organisations who will phone me to collect it,” he says. Once a week he cooks the kids a meal, but they get fruit every day. And he has introduced them to radio stories as well.
“I have a radio here and I let them listen to a story, and I can tell you their imaginations are wild.”

An 11-year-old boy says he enjoys the library: “Sometimes we play games and Uncle John gives us soup and fruit. Dit is lekker om te lees.”
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