Overcoming barriers to reading in Uganda

Lydia's story

Lydia is a teenager living in a small village several hours outside the city of Mukono in Uganda. Her village is several miles from the nearest paved road and she and her family rely on their small farm for survival.

Lydia’s village is too far from a main town to have a public library, but it does have a small community library run by volunteers called the Access Knowledge Community Library and stocked with Book Aid International books. The library may be small, but it is a lifeline for Lydia, who is an avid reader determined to succeed in school. In fact, reading books in the library has helped Lydia become class prefect and has dramatically improved her English skills. Now, she is first in her class.

These would be huge accomplishments for any teen, but Lydia faces more challenges than many students her age. Like too many women around the world, Lydia’s family does not always support her. She shared her story with our team and explained the struggles she faces when she seeks to access books and read.




According to me, I think I should say openly that my family doesn’t favour me. Because there’s a lot of stuff to be finished – a lot of stuff to be done. Fetch water, clean the house, do the gardening.

So, if you’re talking about leaving the home – coming here to the library or going to collect books and taking them home – it means you’re going to have to make time for yourself [and not for the chores]. You first have to finish everything and prepare some time for you to read your books.

My mum is understanding. You can explain to her “Everything is done – I am going to the library.” But my dad – oh my God!



He is worried and feeling bothered.

He says he’s always worried because of safety – but according to me it’s not risky! Even children that are younger than me use the same route to come this way – they even go beyond!

The safety is just an excuse. He just wants me to be at home.



She helps me go out to the library and get the books.

My dad, he likes it when you’re always working – always busy. Not this stuff where you are sitting and concentrating on something – reading and reading! He only went to school a little. But for me, I love to read!

In this community, it’s so noisy.



I pretend that I am not hearing that noise and it actually seems to disappear. If I stop reading I might notice the music has turned off, but I can’t understand when it was turned off or how! Because I am so much into reading.

At home they sometimes get fed up of me and my books. I can read even though people are often shouting, mum is calling everyone, the TV is making noise, but I’m so much concentrated on reading. Sometimes it gives them a headache!



Lydia has overcome many barriers to get where she is today. She will have to overcome many more to make her aspirations a reality. We are inspired by readers like Lydia every day and wish her well as she pursues her dream of becoming a writer.

Sadly Lydia’s story is not unique. Many women and girls throughout the world face barriers to accessing books which do not affect boys and men. As part of our Vision for 2020 we want to reach as many readers as possible who are facing marginalisation and discrimination. If you believe as we do that everyone should have access to books, you can get involved here.