Conservation, reading culture and Covid-19

9th August 2021 | Blog

This year, we’ve been able to support charity Lewa with thousands of books, all kindly donated by UK publishers. We spoke to Purity, a staff member at Lewa, who told us a little more about the charity’s mission and how books play a part in conservation education throughout Kenya. 

Could you tell us a little bit more about the work you do?

Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is all about conservation education. Lewa is committed to making sure it supports conservation in the immediate community, and one way to do this is to partner with the local schools to support education. One way we tried to do this is through a digital literacy programme, and despite high uptake, students were still performing poorly in the national curriculum. So our question was why?

We brought in different videos, different open source content for them to use but still nothing improved. There was one basic thing that we overlooked – nobody bothered to check literacy levels. It doesn’t matter what kind of content you gave to them, the issue was that simply they could not read confidently.

The best way we saw of overcoming this is trying to instill a reading culture in schools. But the budget was small so we started with a mobile library where we carried books in a backpack and brought them to schools. We gave them to the learners to read and then they exchange with each other. We have also had training so we have enriched the librarians as well, they are now making sure that students write book summaries, do reading book clubs and have started a spelling bee competition.

Do you think the reading culture has been improved by the books you received from us at Book Aid International? 

Often, when we get donated books, we get very old books that were published a very long time ago. Many of these donors don’t give you a chance to pick the kind of books that you want or the region, but with Book Aid International they ask you, are you okay in this category? What books do you need in this other category? What books do you need? We have a range now for a range of readers. This is one organisation that has really helped us move an extra mile in terms of instilling a reading culture in the whole area and to not just the students, but also to adults as well.

How do you decide what books that you want to request for the schools?

It depends on the need on the ground. We also do an in-depth analysis in the schools to just determine what levels kids are, and also what their interests are. We have their reading diaries and through them, we’re able to tell what kind of books that they want most. Others are by request by adults or, if it’s people who are doing research in conservation then they will say, we will need a book on this type of field. And then we will put that request before you decide on what books to send.

How do books play a part in the greater mission and vision of Lewa?

The wider vision of Lewa is to empower the community to have alternative sources of income and as well be able to manage the immediate resources properly. And books are a key component in doing this because they contain knowledge – keeping in mind that most of this community is often off the grid and offline. But there are books that help answer questions like ‘How do I get money? and how do I create dams? How do I…’ So if, if we get readers to a good level then they learn and then they take action.

Could you tell us how you have supported readers through the pandemic?

This is the second lockdown for us. Again, schools are currently closed etc, so we have been using the same books to keep learners learning because they come in the library, borrow books and go home and read now. So that has been the best way to support them actually when they are at home because their homes don’t have the most electricity, they don’t have gadgets, but then they can just go and read.

Thanks to our supporters, we are able to continue to send brand new books to organisations like Lewa who can reach readers who need books all around the world. Thank you for your support.