The children of the Agla district of Cotonou officially opened the Melchior Leridon library for the first time on November 8th, 2012.
The inauguration brought together the Beninese Minister of Culture, Literacy, Trades and Tourism, Jean-Michel Abimbola, the Beninese Minister of Youth, Sports and Leisure, Didier Aplogan, The French Ambassador to Benin, Jean-Paul Monchau, the President of the Fondation Zinsou, Marie-Cécile Zinsou, the Co-Presidents of African Artists for Development, Gervanne and Matthias Leridon, as well as several journalists and a crowd of children itching to discover this brand new establishment.
Located in the underprivileged neighborhood of Agla, in Cotonou, the Melchior Leridon library, the product of a partnership between AAD and the Fondation Zinsou, has now been daily welcoming children for about a week. One room is specifically dedicated to group readings for the youngest children while older readers can comfortably plunge into their adventures at individual tables in another room.
According to AAD Co-President Gervanne Leridon, “reading and books are primary tools in the fight against poverty and key levers of sustainable, harmonious and responsible development; because reading is the key to knowledge.”
Benin’s Minister of Culture, Jean-Michel Abimbola, also voiced his wholehearted support for AAD’s initiative, referring to the project as “a great gesture towards Benin’s culture, towards Benin’s youth and towards Benin’s children”. “The work you have done for books, for reading…” Abimbola continued, “as the Minister of Culture, I can only nod in agreement, approve.” “We will long be thankful” chimed in the Minister of Youth, Sports and Leisure, Didier Aplogan.
The last to take the stand was local artist Zinkpè, who will contribute to the Beautiful Libraries of Benin project by creating a hanging mobile sculpture for the library. Zinkpè, who reminded the audience that he grew up in the underprivileged neighborhood of Agla, stated that he was extremely delighted to participate in the project and promised to “do my best to make sure that my work stays in this neighborhood”, inspiring a new generation of Beninese artists.
Indeed, this new generation of children swarmed into the library as soon as the speeches finished, each choosing from the 1,200 available publications, settling comfortably at tables and desks throughout the room and sinking deep into the many new stories now at their fingertips.
These first readers of the Melchior Leridon library will soon be joined by many others as daily attendance of the library is expected to rise to 200 children each day!
AAD plans to push its commitment to children’s reading in Benin even further in 2013, always in collaboration with the Fondation Zinsou, by renovating and equipping two more children’s libraries in Cotonou.