If there’s one thing I commend my father for, is the reading habit that he instilled in us. When we were in primary school, he made us go to the National Library. He made us members and we would borrow 2 books at a time. The National Library in Zomba is located at Luangwa Parish. Then, we were living in Mulunguzi, so we would walk there.

At first I found the place boring. I didn’t like reading. I wanted to play instead. But dad forced us into reading. He said he wanted us to learn English while we were young. Then I started getting into the books. I remember I got into reading so much, sometimes I would borrow books to read at home, read them the same day, walk back to the library, return the books and borrow a bigger book which I wouldn’t finish reading in a few hours. I looooved reading. My favorite series was “American Girl”. I remember how much I wished I visited America because of those books! Lol. My sister Honest introduced me to these books. She always knew the shelves with the best books.

I remember how I would sit on the floor and read. And read. I wouldn’t even hear the choir practicing outside. Sometimes the librarian had to come and tap me on the shoulder to tell me it was time to close. Then I would walk out and it would feel like I was in another world, and now I have stepped into another world. And I would rush home to read the books I had just borrowed.

There was a time that, for some reason, I stopped reading as much. I lost the library books I had borrowed, and one of the books’ pages was torn… In my stupidity, I thought I would just keep quiet about it and get on with life, and forget about reading. Then on a Saturday morning, months later, I remember, dad came home and called me. I knew that voice. It meant I was in trouble. He said he got a letter from the National Library that said I hadn’t returned some books in months. I was so scared! And dad was so unhappy with me. I told him one of the books was torn and I was scared to tell him. He told me to find the torn book and get dressed. He drove me to the National Library and I met the head of the library-an elderly man who wore big glasses. His office had lace curtains, at the corner of the library. He made me apologize to the Head and I returned the torn book. Dad apologized and said he didn’t know I hadn’t returned the books.

You would think dad gave up on me then. No. He paid for the torn and lost book and gave me the pockets, and told me to go read (it was a lot of money! Maybe K500. That was a lot of money then lol). But Dad really wanted us to read. We would borrow books and when he is back from work, we would gather around him in the living room and he would read the books to us. He would usually carry Chisomo on his laps and we all pressed against him to read along and look at the pictures. He had such a dramatic voice! I still remember him reading “Little Red Riding Hood” to us and he had a great voice for the Big Bad Wolf. I have memories of him reading to us till date.

Anyway, today I was walking around Luangwa Parish and remembered the library. I decided to visit the place. It still had the same sign. The ceiling fans were still hanging, the poster reminding us to be quiet still hang near the entrance. The librarians were all new. The library looked smaller than usual-probably because I last went there when I was a kid. They told me to pay K100. I gasped! I asked them why they make people pay. The lady said, “new rules, since July 2016.” I asked her, “what about kids that can’t even afford to pay?” She said, “we let kids come in free.”

I paid the K100 and started looking at the books. I almost teared up when I found about 5 books I read in my childhood. They looked so small compared to what I remember. Probably cause I was a kid then and this was a big book to me. I grabbed one and read it right there. Then I decided to get some pockets and take some of the books home. One of the librarians’ face looked familiar. I remembered her. She remembered me too. She asked me about my family and what I am currently doing. She made me some pockets and I borrowed four books then I bid her farewell. Then I asked her where the Head Librarian was… “The one who wore big round glasses,” I said.
“Oh, him! He passed away. Ages ago.”
“Aww, I’m sorry,” I said.
Then I left.

Now I can’t wait to read these books again. One day, when I have kids of my own, I will make them read the way my father did. I don’t think I have ever thanked him for that. He always tells me to read. I remember what a breeze my dissertation was in my final year because he told me to READ. So I read everything to do with my topic and life was made easier for me. Special thanks to Malawi’s first president, who insisted that Malawians READ and brought about the National Library Services.

I think I will get into reading again and maybe make use of the pockets I have just acquired. Hopefully I don’t lose or tear some books. I doubt dad will come to my rescue this time.

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