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Readers in new places

Hear from our Head of Programmes, Samantha Sokoya, about our 2023 Community Reading Awards – a scheme that gives grants to innovative partners who believe in helping people access the power of books.

Last year we launched the Community Reading Awards. Winners ranged from a mobile bicycle library in Uganda to a book club for young women in Kenya and we were so impressed with the creativity and thoughtfulness of the applications, which in total gave 7,000 readers the opportunity to enjoy the power and joy of reading.

My heart warms as I think about the children in Kip Keno Children’s home in Zimbabwe who now have a Children’s Corner and a wide range of books to explore for fun and for study during their new ‘after-supper reading activity’.   I can only imagine the fun, games and laughter that those children are having.

I also think about the small villages in Magoro Uganda who can now expect to see volunteers from the Marko Lukooya Mobile Bicycle Library bringing books in rucksacks for them to borrow.  And then there are new mums and mums-to-be at the Toto Smart Book club at the Bondeni Maternity Hospital in Kenya, who have discovered the joy and relaxation that reading to a baby can bring. All of these fantastic projects illustrate how books in the hands of people who want them can change lives and bring people power. 

Applications for the 2023 awards opened in September last year and we can now announce the winners have received their grants and their projects are underway! The winners are:

Sierra Leone:

· ‘The Congo Market Community Mobile Library’, which is providing the community in the Congo Market area of Freetown with access to books through a partnership between SLLB and Gethsemane Charismatic Church.


· ‘The Kpongu Community Library Project’, which provides books and reading support and library management training for Kpongu Community members.


· ‘The Healing Cabinet Project’, that is establishing books and reading activities for children admitted to Gwanda Provincial Hospital.

· ‘Books Behind Bars’, a project which is establishing books and reading activities for inmates and prison officers at Gwanda Prison and Correctional Facility.

· ‘The Sizalendaba Reading Project’, which provides books and reading support for pupils and teachers at Sizalendaba Secondary School, Bulawayo and basic training in library management for school staff


· ‘Mwitere Primary School Library’, that is providing books and reading support for pupils and training for teachers at Mwitere Primary School.


· ‘Mkataba Mtaani’, who will run pop-up libraries at soccer fields for non-football spectators.

· ‘KNLS Kibera & Lang’ata Women’s Prison Partnership’ – who are establishing a children’s reading and activity area in the Women’s’ Prison school.


· ‘A Book Club in Every School’ – a project which will establish fun book clubs in ten schools through a mobile library and teacher-led activities.

· ‘Naguru Remand Home Library’ – working to establish a library at Naguru Remand Home to provide children and young people awaiting trial with books and reading activities and training for social workers and educators.

· ‘Osupa Community Reading Enhancement’, which will create a small community library in Osupa Primary School, Pallisa for upper primary school pupils.

· ‘Uganda Mobile Reading Park’, a project which will establish Mobile Reading parks in three villages using Book Banks, and will train volunteers and teachers in reading promotion.

Such unique projects reach readers who otherwise would miss out on the opportunity to read. I look forward to hearing about the impact these projects will make in the lives of the communities they reach. Watch this space.


Libraries Leading Change

Ahmed runs the National Library in Somaliland. He’s seen how increasing access to libraries has empowered communities and improved literacy rates.

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