Book Aid International 2023 Annual Review

Welcome

In 2023 the continuing global economic crisis had a disastrous impact on people’s lives around the world; for many, the cost of everyday essentials slipped out of reach, and they had no access to education.

As the Ukraine war raged on, a new crisis in Gaza left millions displaced or cut off from homes, livelihoods and education. In these and other less reported conflicts, people more than ever need reasons to hope for the future and practical support in rebuilding their lives.

In 2023 we provided 1,235,958 books to partners in 22 countries, giving 17.3 million people the opportunity to read, learn and improve their life chances. And in the first year of our Generation Reader campaign, we raised over £400k towards our £4m target and sent over 146,000 books to schools and libraries across Africa.

We would like to thank all of you who generously support the vital work we do, whether through donations of books or funding, or by volunteering your time. Together, we can share the power of books with more readers worldwide. 

Dr Alice Prochaska, Chair of the Board of Trustees

2023 in Numbers

1,235,958

Books provided

17,301,398

Readers reached

166

Partners supported

Where we reached readers

883

Public and community libraries

53

Refugee settings

211

Higher and further education libraries

75

Prisons

232

Medical settings

1,983

Schools

How we supported partners

£42,690

Grants to partners to purchase local books

80

Local trainers upskilled

827

People trained to support reading

The books we sent

Titles shown are are examples of the types of books we provided in 2023.

Sulwe

653,892

Children and primary

A Spoonful of Murder

116,925

Secondary education and teenage fiction

Mandela

161,554

Adult fiction and leisure reading

Midwifery Skills

106,721

Medicine and healthcare

Mindful Teacher

116,114

Higher education, law and teacher training

Framework

22,262

English language

Rural Democracy

3,110

Development

Financial Accounting

42,300

Vocational, technical and business

The Emerald Planet

13,462

Reference

Access for all

We worked for a world where everyone has access to books that will enrich, improve and change their lives.

In 2023, we worked with our library, NGO and institutional partners to support public, community and school libraries, and we supported libraries in prisons, refugee camps, hospitals and in the remotest communities. We also worked to ensure that people are still able to access books when libraries or schools are impacted by conflict or natural disaster.

In total, we supported 166 partners in 22 countries and provided books to 3,099 libraries and reading spaces, giving over 17 million people access to books and the opportunity to fulfil their potential

How we ensured access for all

Creating access to books

Many of the national library services that we partner with are expanding their services by adding new libraries to their networks and are also supporting schools, so the need for the books we send is growing. 

In Ghana for example, the Ghana Library Authority (GhLA) currently manages 128 libraries across the country and is looking to expand that number even further. Last year we sent 83,409 books to support GhLA in their work to reach even more communities. In 2023 in total we supported 645 networked public libraries across East, West, Southern and the Horn of Africa.

Find out more about our work supporting libraries
Early years children reading donated books in Liberia
Young readers in Liberia

Supporting local communities

We work with our partners to get books to the remotest communities, where there would otherwise be little access to books and learning.

In 2023, through our partner Silanyo National Library in Somaliland, we supplied books which were sent to the camel library. This mobile library supports communities of pastoralists who move from one location to the next with their cattle. The books are eagerly awaited by the children, offering an opportunity to read and learn about the world.

Find out more about the camel library
Book Aid International Camel Library
The camel library

Our Power of Books strategy

In 2022 we launched our Power of Books strategy, focusing on four key goals: ensuring equitable access to books; engaging readers; investing in partnership and advocating for books around the world. At the end of 2023, the mid-point of our strategy, we were making good progress on all the strategic goals and key performance indicators. The rest of this report details our progress against these goals.

Creating equitable access

In 2023 we focused our work on creating access to books and supporting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for education, gender and health.

In 2023, 99% of the books we sent went to communities in low and low-middle income* countries, where poverty, inequality, conflict and natural disasters are excluding people from the opportunity to access books and read.

As part of our commitment to SDG 4: Quality Education we provided 294,985 books to 64 partners whose core mission is education and we supported 817 schools in low-income countries by donating books to their school libraries.

We worked with partners to create reading spaces where girls can feel safe and where they are encouraged to learn as part of our commitment to SDG 5: Gender Equality.

And as part of our commitment to SDG 3: Good Health and Well-being we supported medical and health professionals in their ongoing training and development by sending brand-new books and resources to higher and further education spaces.

* As defined by the World Bank

Achievements:

99%

of books provided to low-income countries

49%

of books provided to low- and low-middle income countries

31%

of our work took place in countries recovering from or affected by conflict and disaster

How we ensured equitable access

Helping education to thrive

Through our Explorer Libraries project in Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Sierra Leone and Zanzibar we set up seven new libraries in primary schools – transforming unused class-rooms into places where children can discover books.

Our Books to Go project in Uganda,  reached 4,242 children in five schools. This project provides brand-new books, secure book storage and staff training for schools, enriches learning in the classroom and supports children to read at home.

Find out more about our work enriching education
Books to Go Uganda
Young readers in Uganda

Promoting gender equality

In South Sudan, years of civil war and conflict have had a devastating impact on children’s learning. We sent 3,536 books to our partner African Revival in 2023, which helped to stock over 20 school libraries in the Ibba and Maridi regions, in particular IBBA Girls School, where communities had few resources.

Work like this and our support of partners like UMOVEMENT in Liberia, who run after-school learning clubs especially for girls, also helps to encourage gender equality.

A South Sudanese refugee in Uganda

Supporting good health and well-being

In 2023 we provided 103,386 medical, health and social care books in 21 countries, helping professionals to keep developing their skills.  

In South Sudan, we sent 3,274 up to date medical books which are now giving students and medical faculties the research and information they need. And in Lusaka, Zambia, we provided 452 medical books to the University Teaching Hospital, where 4,000 undergraduate students, 1,000 postgraduate students and 300 lecturers can now access them.

Find out more about our work providing health information
A medical educator in Somaliland reading donated books

Reaching refugees

We worked with 25 partners to reach 379,834 refugees in nine countries, distributing everything from picture books to further education books.

To support refugees who have fled to Lebanon from Palestine and Syria, we donated over 9,304 books through our partner the Lebanese Board on Books for Young People.  We also started working with new partners, Room to Read, in the Bekaa Valley and Tuyoor Al-Amal in the north of Lebanon who have set up three schools to provide education for refugee children there. 

Find out more about our work with refugees
Young refugees in Uganda

Responding to conflict

Conflict has forced tens of millions of people worldwide from their homes, closing schools and destroying libraries.

In 2023 we sent 25,505 brand-new books to support over 80 libraries in Ukraine which were damaged or destroyed during the Russian invasion. The shipment was sent overland to Kyiv, in support of PEN Ukraine’s Unbreakable Libraries project, to help rebuild their collections and to bring hope, comfort and learning to communities across Ukraine.

Find out more about our work responding to conflict and disaster
Books arriving in Ukraine
Donated books arriving in Ukraine

Engaging readers

Throughout 2023, we worked in partnership with library services, community groups and education partners to help readers of all ages discover a love of reading.

Through our network of 166 partners we provided 1,235,958 brand-new books, created inviting reading spaces and trained teachers, librarians, staff and volunteers in new ways to encourage reading.

Alongside the books we provided, we gave grants totalling £42,690 to support the purchase of 17,006 locally published books which reflect readers’ own cultures and language. Together with the books we provide they offer a rich and diverse collection for readers to choose from.

Achievements:

1,983

school libraries reached

15

partners outside Africa

How we engaged readers

Engaging more people with reading

In some communities where our partners work, children have very few books for learning.

So, in 2023 we supplied 1,637 nursery and primary school and 346 secondary school libraries, offering a broad range of brand-new books and enabling children to discover the joy and benefit of reading. We also supported our partners in training 364 teachers and librarians, enabling them to include reading in school timetables and to use books to inspire children both within and beyond the classroom.

Find out more about our work enriching education
Students reading books in the library at Kianjau primary school
Reading books in a school library in Kenya

Bringing school libraries to life

In Sierra Leone, through our Inspiring Readers programme we provided ten schools with 10,255 books, plus additional locally purchased books. Each school now has its own cupboard library – the perfect solution when there is not a dedicated school library. Teachers report that students are already more engaged in reading exercises and more confident in reading aloud in front of their classmates.

We also set up Children’s Corners in Sierra Leone’s Kambia and Moyamba districts, with 7,270 books now available in dedicated spaces for younger readers in public libraries while in the Bo province, we worked with the Sierra Leone America Calvary Baptist Primary School to set up an Explorer Library project. 

Reading in a Children’s Corner in Sierra Leone

Working with education NGOs

Working in partnership with education NGOs, we can support the most marginalised children, giving them the chance to engage with books in their communities.

Through our partnership with the Rainbow Trust Foundation in Ghana, an NGO focused on improving children’s access to quality education,  we developed an Explorer Library at the Apapam Methodist Primary School, supporting the renovation of an empty classroom into a brand-new library and training staff in how to manage the library. We sent 2,500 books in 2022 and provided a grant in 2023 which purchased 200 locally published books to stock the library, which is now being used by five local schools.

Reader in Ghana
Students reading at an Explorer Library in Ghana

Reading in communities

Well-stocked libraries – whether they are in a city, a township, or a village; whether they are public, community or mobile – offer vital sources of information for communities and ensure that people can engage with books wherever they live.

In Zambia for example, we worked in partnership with the Kabwe Provincial Library, the Mbala Municipal Library and the Mporokoso District Library, to develop dedicated Children’s Corner’s. We sent 8,177 UK-donated books, alongside 1,720 titles which were purchased locally.

Find out more about our work promoting reading in communities
A Children’s Corner in Zambia

Nemashakwe Community Library

The lack of a community space for reading and learning in Gutu, Zimbabwe was a clear problem. With little access to books, students were struggling in their exams. There were few materials to inspire young people about learning and future opportunities. But, with the opening of the Nemashakwe Community Library, the situation is changing fast.

Set up by renowned poet Chirikure Chirikure  with our support,  the library is now being used by the entire community including five local primary and secondary schools. Children in nearby communities can now engage with books and create the future they want to have.

Chirikure Chirikure

Our work in focus

Generation Reader:

Empowering young people in Africa to transform their future

By 2030, a third of the world’s under 25-year-olds will live in Africa. Millions of these children and young people will never have the chance to realise their true potential, because they lack access to books and quality education.

That’s why, in 2023, we launched our Generation Reader campaign – which aims by 2030 to reach 10 million children and young people in sub-Saharan Africa, helping them to unlock their potential through the power of books.

Last year the campaign enabled us to support book provision and a broad range of projects aimed at giving children access to books and reading. Working with partners like Kenya National Library Service, WE-CARE Foundation Malawi, Malawi National Library Service and Sierra Leone Library Board, we created Explorer Libraries in Kenya, Liberia, Malawi and Sierra Leone. We also helped to set up two Children’s Corners in Ghana and we sent Discovery Book Boxes to Cameroon and Sierra Leone for children to explore books and reading.

Achievements:

146,000

books provided for children and young people

28

new reading spaces created

44

teachers and librarians trained

£402,238

raised, exceeding our target for the year

Strengthening partnership working

In 2023 we created sustainable change by investing in new partnerships, training and co-creating projects.

Partnership is at the heart of everything we do because it generates opportunities for us to create greater impact and positive change for readers with others working locally. Every partner we work with supports our vision of a world where everyone has access to books.

In 2023, we continued to broaden our scope for partnerships, working with organisations who may not have education or reading as their core purpose, but who will use books to support broader aims.

Achievements:

80

local trainers up-skilled

38

new partnerships formed

How we invested in partnership

Welcoming new partners

We supplied books to 38 new partners, providing 79,069 books to communities. We also worked closely with some of these organisations, setting up a variety of projects to engage readers.

In Liberia we worked with our new partner Kids Education Engagement Project (KEEP) who promote a culture of reading and set up and stock brand-new reading spaces. We also partnered with Sierra Leone Book Trust (SALBOT) whose aim is to help create a literate society by making books accessible to all.

Discovery Book Box
Discovery Book Box, Sierra Leone

Strengthening partner skills

To support our partners’ ongoing learning, we work in-country to train people to become trainers themselves, so that they can continue to cascade their learning and engage their communities in reading.

In 2023, we engaged partners to run 15 virtual training courses on Zoom and coached 68 partner staff. We also supported partners to run 20 in-person courses themselves. We continued to build upon our Partner Development Programme, which launched in 2022, to support our partners and enable them to do more.

Partners working together
Partner training in Nairobi

Community Reading Awards

Our Community Reading Awards played a big part in empowering partners to reach more people in 2023. Through this scheme we made small grants of £1,540 to partners who had innovative ideas on how to reach the broadest community of readers.

Winners in 2023 included a micro-library in a prison in Zimbabwe, a project to run pop-up libraries on football fields in Kenya and  mobile library serving communities in the Congo Market area of Freetown in Sierra Leone. Thanks to our partners, we reached more than 4,000 readers through these awards.

Find out more about the Community Reading Awards winners
Congo Market library
Congo Market Community Library

Investing in partner projects

In Cameroon, project Managers from Book Aid International and Street Child came up with the Read Together project together, based on Street Child’s knowledge of what the needs were in the schools and communities.

We provided 2,685 books and a grant to buy 300 locally published books along with content for the teacher training, while Street Child’s positive parenting content was used for the parent/caregiver training. Together we created a brand-new, carer-friendly guide, assisting parents and carers in supporting their children to read. 

Read Together project Cameroon
Read Together, Cameroon

Our work in focus

Our Partner Development Programme:

Creating a community of practice

As part of our Power of Books strategy we have committed to develop dynamic partnerships with organisations that share our vision of creating more equitable access to books. In 2022 we launched our Partner Development Programme (PDP) to support partners who are working to help more people discover the power of books.

The programme was designed by partners through a collaborative process with civil society advisors INTRAC, to support our partners’ existing strengths, plans and objectives.

Support requested included online learning, face-to-face learning, networking events, peer support, and training from local experts. Every partner planned their own skills development, identifying the opportunities that will be most useful to their organisation.

At the end of the year, the group formed a Community of Practice where they share ideas, knowledge and experience, through partner-led online workshops and discussions to continue learning together in the future.

Peer support is at the heart of the programme and, in March 2023, 18 staff from all nine PDP partners came together at a learning event in Kenya. Over three days, they shared experiences and insights, took part in sessions covering subjects from effective training to safeguarding and visited local libraries. The quotes that follow show how much our partners valued the experience.

Following this positive start to the programme, we plan to continue to our journey towards building strong and equitable partnerships.

It is a good practice to bring implementing partners together. We get to know each other, learn and share practice from different backgrounds. I appreciate this opportunity, because my mind has been opened up to the world.”

Emmanuel Anguyo, Community Libraries Association of Uganda

The learning event was well structured. We learnt a lot. All the sessions were so important. I now have the urge to go back to Sierra Leone to implement some of this great skill.”

Mac Lenger Fofanah, Save the Needy Sierra Leone

Advocating for books

In 2023 we worked to raise awareness of the power of books and to get more people reading.

The potential of millions of people worldwide is held back by a lack of access to books, and part of the problem is that too often the value of books goes unrecognised.

So, throughout 2023, we took every opportunity to raise awareness in the UK of the need for books around the world and we supported our partners to advocate for reading in their communities

Achievements:

14

reader stories published

3,748

people attended Reading Promotion events

Supporting Reading Promotion

On International Literacy Day in September 2023, we organised our annual Reading Promotion celebration, in which 13 partners in Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Lebanon, Liberia, Malawi, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Zambia, Zanzibar and Zimbabwe took part. 

In total, 2,667 children and 1,081 adults attended these events, participating in a wide range of activities and hearing about the power of books from guest speakers including business leaders and government officials. 

Find out about Reading Promotion activities in Cameroon
Reading Promotion celebrations
Reading Promotion in Zimbabwe

Showcasing stories of change

On our website and social media channels we shared blogs on the value of libraries in conflict zones and on how communities were empowered by reading. We also shared first-hand stories from children who are reading to transform their futures, teachers who are empowering the next generation of readers and parents who are discovering the impact access to books can have on children’s education. The stories really struck a chord and were read 2,313 times.

We also secured more than 180 pieces of press coverage during 2023, and our partnership in Ukraine, in particular, generated significant coverage and comments on social media, including from author Elif Shafak.

Browse reader stories
Veronica reading in the school library
A young reader in Liberia

Taking part in Hay Festival

In 2023 we were joined by over 1,000 book lovers at Hay Festival as our Trustee, Pam Dix, hosted a discussion with authors Elif Shafak, Mariella Frostrup and Kit De Waal on how books can provide solace and strength in times of upheaval.

And we supported Hay Festival Global by participating in a Lviv BookForum event with Rachel Clarke, Halyna Kruk and Sir Ben Okri on The Power of Words during conflict, which helped to raise the topic of books in times of conflict, with an international audience.

Sharing the power of books at the Hay Festival  
Hay Festival 2023
Hay Festival, 2023

A Royal visit helps spread the word

In October, Their Majesties made an official visit to Kenya, including a tour of the Eastlands Library in Nairobi. The library had recently been renovated through a local partnership and also received over 8,000 books from Book Aid International.

During the visit, our Patron, Her Majesty The Queen, heard a book reading from 12 children and had an opportunity to talk with many of them.

Find out more about the impact of a royal visit
Her Majesty the Queen
Her Majesty the Queen visiting Eastlands Library in Nairobi, Kenya

Supporting the World Book Capital

In 2023, when Accra was nominated UNESCO World Book Capital, our partner Ghana Library Authority (GhLA) capitalised on the attention this recognition created to advocate for the power of books.

Our Chief Executive Alison Tweed visited Ghana to take part in a series of events on International Literacy Day. As part of our involvement, we made a special donation of 25,112 brand-new books, helping GhLA to inspire more people to read at its network of 128 libraries across the country. And Alison joined the Second Lady of Ghana at a series of well-publicised events, giving readings in schools and speaking about Book Aid International’s book donations around the world.

International Literacy Day Ghana
Alison Tweed and the Second Lady of Ghana

Our supporters

We are supported by a range of organisations as well as thousands of people in the UK who believe in the power of books.

Some lend their time, others give financially, but we are grateful to every person who is part of our community.

Here you can meet a few of the inspiring people who help us share the power of books around the world.

Meet our supporters

“We are proud to have been partnering with Book Aid International for over 30 years”

23 companies supported our work last year. The companies we work with share our belief in books, and together we can reach more readers around the world.

“RELX are proud to have been partnering with Book Aid International for over 30 years. Through book donations, volunteering and donations we have supported their work in libraries, schools and universities across sub-Saharan Africa and beyond. We look forward to continuing and strengthening our partnership into their 70th year.”

Alexis Steadman, Global Community Manager, RELX

Find out about becoming a corporate partner
Alexis Steadman
Alexis Steadman, RELX

“I’ve had my nose in a book all my life – as a reader, then as an editor, proofreader and writer.”

By organising events ranging from bake sales, to sponsored walks to readathons, people who fundraise in their communities help us send hundreds of books every year – we’re incredibly grateful for their support.

“The hunger for and delight in books described by the recipients of books from Book Aid seems very real and natural to me. I wanted to promote this worthy cause, so since 2018 I’ve been visiting groups with a talk about Lady Ranfurly, founder of Book Aid International, and have raised nearly £800 so far. I’m sure she would approve!”

Chris Lindop, Supporter

Find out more about fundraising
Chris Lindop
Chris Lindop

“Reading opens up worlds, ideas, other people’s lives.”

Whether speaking out on our behalf on social media or joining us at a literary festival, our high-profile friends help us raise awareness about the power of books around the world.

“Reading opens up worlds, ideas, other people’s lives. It’s the best way of walking in someone else’s footsteps, of being there, of imagining another life for yourself – on the moon, in the past, in the future. Stories also have the power to comfort us in times of stress or distress, to make us laugh and wonder.

Book Aid International make sure some of the most vulnerable people have access to books and reading, something many of us take for granted. I’m very happy to support them in this important work.”

Kit de Waal, Author

Kit De Waal
Kit de Waal, Author

“We look forward to continuing our partnership with Book Aid International.”

The long-term relationships we build with trusts like The Beit Trust, the People’s Postcode Lottery Education Trust, The Be Global Foundation and many others help us provide books and fund projects that transform reading for millions worldwide. Last year, 45 trusts supported our charity.

“We have supported Book Aid International since 1981. They deliver over 300,000 books a year to Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi, the Trust’s beneficial countries.

Unrivalled in quality and variety, these books boost education and provide reading pleasure in equal measure. We look forward to continuing our partnership with Book Aid International in the provision of this essential service.”

Sir Andrew Pocock, Secretary to The Beit Trustees, The Beit Trust

Find out about giving as a charitable trust
Sir Andrew Pocock
Sir Andrew Pocock, The Beit Trust

Financial overview

Our income

At Book Aid International all of our income is voluntary – we receive no government grants.

In 2023 our total income was £22,561,637, of which £3,325,882 was cash and £19,235,755 was the value of books donated to us by publishers.

Our expenditure

In 2023 our total expenditure was £19,991,642, of which £2,457,936 was cash expenditure and
£17,533,706 was the value of the books we provided around the world.

Alison Tweed

In a world
increasingly driven
by new technology,
the printed book
continues to be
hugely relevant.

– Alison Tweed

Rising to the challenge

The global need for books is increasing and so is our commitment to reach more readers and transform more lives.

Our partners tell us time and again that they need more books to equip their libraries and to create vibrant learning environments for their students and communities. And every year we receive more requests from organisations who are keen to receive books.

We continue to provide the widest selection of international books, generously donated by UK publishers, and local books, purchased from national publishers, which our partners can use to contribute to a book-rich environment where reading and learning can flourish.

In a world increasingly driven by new technology, the printed book continues to be relevant for children, students, medical practitioners, teachers and professionals around the world. It needs no power or access to the Internet, and is easy to read anywhere, consult repeatedly, lend, share and return to, time after time, for pleasure, for study or for a lifetime of learning. The printed book is very much alive and well, around the world.

We are very grateful to all the publishers who give us these wonderful brand-new books, and to all of you who support the vital work we do.

Together we can contribute to building a better world for the next generation of readers.