290,883 children go back to school with books

31st August 2021 | News

In sub-Saharan Africa, many schools have no libraries and children are often forced to learn by sharing old textbooks, making it much harder to engage with reading and succeed in education. But this year, 290,883 children across Africa will be going back to classrooms full of carefully selected books thanks to the award-winning programme, Inspiring Readers. 

We began Inspiring Readers in 2016 with the aim of helping a quarter of a million children thrive in school by setting up school libraries to enrich classrooms in the form of cupboards filled with vibrant books, training teachers and linking schools with local library’s Children’s Corners. To date, Inspiring Readers has reached 297 schools with 372,473 UK donated books, 50,237 locally purchased books and has trained 880 teachers. 

Sarah Ogembo is a librarian at Kenya National Library Service. She was one of the very first librarians to work with us to deliver Inspiring Readers. Sarah spoke about why the unique simplicity of the programme has led to its success: 

“The fact that this programme was coming on board with around 1,200 books in every school was so enticing to the children because they thought “I could not get storybooks at home, but now I can access the storybooks now that they are coming to my school, and I am allowed to borrow them”. They were eager to read, they wanted more! We now go into schools where children tell us “I read all the books in the cupboard and we want more, are you here to give us more?”. Inspiring Readers is a realistic project. Schools don’t need to have a fancy building, they don’t have to set aside a room for this, just a small space or a corner where they can put this cupboard and say: ‘This is our start-up library’”. 

Inspiring Readers won the 2017 London Book Fair International Excellence award, and at that time judges particularly commented on how the linking of schools and libraries created support for students. Professional Kenyan librarian and our African Representative James Kimani has also been involved with Inspiring Readers from the programme’s start, and he commented on the importance of linking libraries and schools.

“Public libraries are often sleeping giants. Very few activities used to happen between libraries and schools around them. However, the training of librarians and teachers brings them together and helps them to appreciate each other’s roles.” 

We would like to thank our many UK supporters for making Inspiring Readers possible. Our Chief Executive, Alison Tweed said:

“We are delighted to know that over 290,000 children will go back to school to books. It is only through the generosity of our many donors that Inspiring Readers has reached this point, and we would like to thank in particular players of People’s Postcode Lottery for supporting this project from start to finish. We know that there are still far too many children without books in their schools and that the need for books in classrooms to help children catch up on lost learning is huge, and we hope to offer many more children the opportunity to read in their classrooms in the future.” 

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