PICS | Cape Town library uses PlayStation, Xbox games to get children off the streets

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Scores of youngsters at the Delft library.
Scores of youngsters at the Delft library.
  • A library in Delft Cape Town has implemented a programme to reward young people for learning and reading.
  • As part of the programme, young people who read or do their homework at the library earn an opportunity to play PlayStation or Xbox games there.
  • The aim is to increase their vocabulary and get them off the streets and away from a life of crime.

A library in Delft, Cape Town is on a mission to get young people off the streets and away from a life of crime by implementing a games section that incorporates rewards for reading and learning.

Ashley Lewis, who heads up the library, was the brains behind the initiative.

He told News24 it broke his heart to see young people asking passersby for money and sitting on street corners.

"One of the main concepts was to draw youngsters to the library, give them a bit of educational lessons and then reward them by letting them play PlayStation and Xbox games so that they get used to the concept of hard work being rewarded. 

"We cannot allow our children to be idolising crime and gangsterism; that is not something they should be subjected to," Lewis said. 

The ''work hard then get reward" programme kicked off more than a week ago.

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Initially, only three children showed up at the facility.

But they quickly spread the word and today, more than 60 young people go to the library daily.

Lewis explained:

At first they would come and immediately go to the games section. But we've stopped that. They must learn that nothing comes for free. So now we've implemented that each child reads a book for about 30 minutes then tells the staff what they read, or [they] bring their homework to finish here so that they better their vocabulary and knowledge before switching on the games.

"The library has been around for 40 years, and nowhere in the province has any library implemented such a programme, so we are hoping that this initiative brings about inspiration to other libraries to get more kids off the streets," Lewis said.

The initiative started with one television and one PlayStation set which were on the premises already.

"The TV and PlayStation were just standing there, not being used at all. I kept thinking to myself, 'How can I make use of this equipment so that it doesn't gather dust?'

Youngsters eagerly waiting their turn at the gaming section.
PlayStation games have been implemented at the Delft Library.
On Thursday the kids gathered in their numbers at the gaming section.
Youngsters in Delft enjoying the gaming section at the library.
Friendships are also formed at the library.

"I grew up in Manenberg and know first hand what it's like to not have what your friends have and how easy it is for parents to say no when kids want expensive things because they just don't have the money."

"That was partly what prompted me to implement this at the library," Lewis added

Two extra TVs, two additional PlayStation sets, and one Xbox set have since been added after other libraries donated them.

The library now has its own educational, entertainment and gaming sections.

Lewis said the sad reality for most of the children in the community was that they were illiterate and had never set foot inside a library.

PlayStation games have been implemented at the library for youngsters.
The gaming section inside of the Delft library.

"We are working on getting them library cards so that they can take books home with them. It's been amazing to see how these youngsters have taken up the opportunity to learn outside of school and how many of them are actually willing to stand in long queues to get inside. We've never had queues at this library.

"Even during load shedding, the kids will wait outside for us to open," Lewis giggled

He said parents no longer need to worry about where their children are after school because they have a "safe space" for learning. 

He said:

In a disadvantaged community, it's very difficult to make something out of your life. It is very easy to idolise crime, and the library aims to break that cycle so that our kids know that once you work hard for something, you will be rewarded.

That is such a great feeling to have," Lewis added.

The library is open from Monday to Saturday.

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