Class Notes & Profiles

Building a Community

By Corinne Militello '98

Maki Kuwayama ’82, a graduate of the Yale School of Architecture who has worked with Cesar Pelli and Associates, and Michael Hopkins and Partners in London, has turned her talents towards building a library of children’s books in Stuttgart, Germany. Maki and her husband, Joachim Käppeler, also an architect, moved to his hometown in southwest Germany to open their own architecture firm. They wanted their two sons, Aki (8), and Kei (5), to grow up “at least bilingual.”

Maki said, “It was obvious to us that they would only accept speaking English if they felt that other children spoke it and that it was not some odd language that one used only at home.”

She enrolled her children in an English playgroup, where she and other parents took turns reading books and organizing activities “that were culturally English in the broadest sense — British, American, Australian, South African, etc…. We were soon running out of books to read and after every trip home our suitcases were bulging with books. It seemed much more practical if there was a library where we could borrow the books. Of course there wasn’t one.”

With other volunteers, Maki started collecting books and applying for grants. “Within the first year we had a few hundred books and applied to become an official nonprofit organization,” she said. “Within three years we had over 2,000 books but no place to house our library.” After much effort, the Children’s English Library opened in a local kindergarten building. Since Maki embarked on this project, English has become mandatory for elementary school children in the German school system. The Children’s English Library has grown to almost 4,000 volumes, with members from every continent, and has introduced workshops and activities for more advanced speakers.