Harare City Library scores a first

Beave Tapureta Bookshelf
Officials at Harare City Library are in happy mood after discovering exceptional writing talent in eight-year-old Aasia Qamar Sial, a frequent user of its Petina Gappah Children’s Library.Aasia has written an exciting, short magical story titled “A Vampire As A Sister” which she says is the first in a series she has planned under the same working title. The story is targeted at her age group.

This is the first time that the HCL has produced a child author and the author’s parents and the library have been greatly stimulated by this new development.

Speaking to Bookshelf, assistant librarian Takwana Masunda said young Aasia has shown that the library has a role to play beyond merely promoting reading culture.

“She has distinguished herself among our patrons in that while all our child patrons enjoy reading books, she has gone a step further to write stories for other children to read! She is now an inspiration to other readers, including adults, that one can be inspired to be a writer through reading,” he said.

Masunda had the privilege to be one of the first readers of Aasia small book and he said he really enjoyed it and was personally inspired.

“The Petina Gappah Children’s Library is well-resourced with books for children of all age groups. We established it to enhance children’s literacy skills. Many children come to read in the library. It is free for such an activity. Some come for storytelling sessions. That service is also free.

“Many others still come to borrow books so that they can read at home. Aasia belongs to the last group. It is the lending service that is paid for. As she says the books she borrowed to read at home inspired her to write books also,” said Masunda.

As an honour to the young talent, the Harare City Library has invited Aasia to grace as a presenter its celebration of the World Book and Copyright Day scheduled to take place soon at the Library. She will join established writers such as Virginia Phiri and others who are expected to take part in the event.

Bookshelf also met Aasia and her parents at the HCL and a brief background of how the little genius got the reins of her creative imagination is so moving.

One day she is sitting with her mates at her school in Milton Park, Harare. A friend brings up a topic “A Vampire As A Sister” which obviously she has borrowed somewhere in her readings in the Petina Gappah Children’s Library. The little girls are all avid readers. “Oh, what a nice title!” exclaims Sial and immediately she tells friends she is going to write a story with the same title.

At home, Aasia tells her mother Roheena, “I want to be a famous author.” With love, mother advises her she needs to read more and enhance writing skills. For Aasia, the calling is strong she could not sit back. Next she comes to mother, fiddling with a story handwritten in pink with a Barbie drawn on the front page. “This is my story,” Aasia tells her mother who, in shock, reads it quickly and what she thought was simply the usual child’s play was actually a gift. The story, though flowing, had some mistakes.

“My husband and myself don’t generally read and it was a big thing for us to see our child develop like this,” said Roheena.

Aasia’s grandmother, some teachers and other neighbours whom Roheena showed the story, were moved by it such that they encouraged her to keep motivating the child. And the story was finally edited, typed and printed.

Asked which books she likes reading most, Aasia said the Enid Blyton series and, no wonder why! There is a whole collection in the Petina Gappah Children’s Library.

The young author girl is unusually cute; talking to her is like talking to an established writer. When Bookshelf, out of interest, inquired what she wanted to teach her peers through her story she said, “Nothing.”

“But every story must at least have some moral, do you know that?”

“Not every,” said Aasia.

However, reading her magical story, one can sense a certain message of how family love and togetherness can work wonders in times of trouble. When Lola’s sister named Crist is snatched in her sleep, put under a spell by a wizard and taken to his dark Tower, Lola tries everything she can to rescue her. Crist would be transformed into a vampire if she stays long in Tower. The very trick she finds in a sacred scroll at the Tower is supposed to break the spell but it fails until she goes back again to her sister with stories about their past love and good old days — the memories touch Crist and she comes back to her senses and is able to agree to escape from the evil Tower!

Apart from writing stories, Aasia also has a passion for poetry. She has written a few poems and so far can only recite one of them which she awesomely demonstrated during the interview. Her recitation skills won her first prize last year in the Speech and Poetry Recitation Contest organised by her school Mubeena Ibrahim Primary School in Milton Park, Harare. The participating kids were given a poem to recite. Her mother Roheena Sial is a member of the Library and also teaches at the same school. She had this to say to other parents and teachers, “I want to say children want activities these days. I understand that we don’t have time as parents but it is important to give our kids these activities. We should motivate our children to read, reading has improved Aasia’s vocabulary.”

Aasia, usually finding free time during school holidays, has already started working on the second book titled “The Wizard’s Revenge” in the series.

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