Sometimes the most wonderfully unexpected things happen when you’re at the library. And when it does, it can lead you in many exciting new directions.
Myla Osborn had such an experience this year when she was invited by friends to attend a screening of Disney’s docu-movie, The Queen of Katwe, at Lyric Cinema. The movie was made available for free by Poudre River Public Library District to area kids and teens as part of the library’s Black History Month celebration.
Everyone in the Osborn family is an avid user of the libraries, regularly borrowing books and participating in a variety of programs and events. But it was a friend’s invitation to see The Queen of Katwe that really sparked Myla’s curiosity and set her on an unexpected learning path.
If you haven’t heard of “the Queen of Katwe,” Phiona Mutesi, she’s a young woman from the slums of Kampala, Uganda who as a child was introduced to chess after stumbling across a group of children learning to play in a one-room shack, and who struggled to overcome incredible obstacles to become Uganda’s first national chess champion. Her story is both heartbreaking and inspiring as she dreams of one day becoming a chess Grandmaster but must continually grapple with living in an unstable country where girls are not taught to dream and she and her family face poverty, homelessness, and other challenges.
For Myla, who’s about the same age as Phiona Mutesi when the story begins, the tale of Phiona’s struggle to overcome illiteracy so she could read books about playing chess made an impact. You see, Myla not only loves to read books but she also likes to play chess and even recently participated in her school’s chess club. So there was an immediate connection when she watched the film.
Afterward, Myla was inspired to check out and read Phiona’s biography from the library and continue learning more about her life in Uganda.
“Her story made me think more about what it would be like to live in extreme poverty,” explains Myla. “But Phiona never gave up. She showed perseverance.”
In the midst of reading The Queen of Katwe by Tom Crothers, Myla’s second-grade teacher at Liberty Common School assigned the class a Hero Project and asked students to research the life of someone they recognized as a hero. Myla considered a few different heroes like astronaut Christa McAuliffe and writer Shel Silverstein, but she ended up choosing Phiona Mutesi.
“I hoped others would be inspired by Phiona too,” Myla says of her choice.
Among Phiona’s many positive qualities, it’s her commitment to learning to read and working hard to overcome challenges of poverty, homelessness, hunger, and discrimination that moved Myla. She writes in her Hero Project, “I think of Phiona when I feel like I can’t do something tough.”
“We’re lucky to be exposed to so many different ideas and experiences through the library,” says Vedra Osborn, Myla’s mother. “And it’s amazing how that exposure inspires us to learn more or to try something new.”
If you’re ready to be inspired too, the Library has The Queen of Katwe available in multiple formats for you to check out and enjoy:
You can also read Tim Crothers’ original article for ESPN the Magazine (2011) that inspired his full-length biography.
Do you have a story about your own library experience and inspiration?
Let us know!
We’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment or email us at Library-PR@PoudreLibraries.org.
BONUS: Curious about Myla’s reading list? Here are a few of the recent books she’s enjoyed from the library!
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne
Middle School, the Worst Years of my Life by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts
Poppy and Rye by Avi
Tale of Desperaux by Kate DiCamillo
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls