In 2018 we worked with CODE Ethiopia to pilot Book Havens – a new way of creating spaces for children’s reading – in five community libraries in rural and slum areas of Ethiopia.
The project aimed to support the development of the children’s services offered by the community libraries by refurbishing a space in the library for children to use, training staff in working with children and providing brand new printed children’s books and two tablets per library pre-loaded with local content.
Our Book Havens project aims to work with partners to create places where children can read in community-run and informal libraries as well as non-library spaces. The project was also piloted in Nairobi, Kenya. Find out more here.
Increase in child visits
Libraries reported an increase in the number of child visits thanks to the presence of brand new books to explore and a child-friendly space to read them in for the first time.
Libraries are engaging more children in reading
Following the training (attended by two members of staff from each community library) the libraries now offer a range of book-related activities for children. This includes read-alouds, singing, poetry and drawing.
Local schools are making more use of the library
Libraries are now loaning books in bulk to local schools to use in class as well as receiving visits from classes in the Book Haven and running activities for them.
Between September 2016 and December 2017 our Book Havens project was implemented in three libraries in the Mathare and Kibera slums of Nairobi, Kenya. Working in partnership with the Kenya National Library Service (knls) and Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA), the project aimed to create peaceful and welcoming spaces filled with brand new children’s books for the most marginalised children to enjoy reading. This paper presents our findings.
Too many children in Africa and around the world are growing up in a world without books. They live in families where parents are struggling even to put food on the table, so buying books is simply not possible. Schools rarely have reading books and pupils must share a textbook between up to 14 pupils. Without access to books, children may never have the chance to expand their horizons through education.
Where governments are unable to provide the resources and services that communities need to enrich young readers’ lives, many have come together to create their own libraries. Community libraries have the potential to offer a vital haven where children can discover books, but they are almost always run by volunteers or staff who have no formal librarian training and few have the funds to buy books. As a result, librarians often find it difficult to provide effective support for young readers.
Our Book Havens project with knls and MYSA, aims to meet this need by creating spaces in community libraries where children’s reading and learning can flourish. In each library, we offer:
Training in how to support, engage and inspire young readers
Funds to refurbish the library’s space to ensure it is welcoming and child-friendly
A grant to purchase locally published books which reflect children’s own experiences and may be in local languages
Key findings from the Book Havens project
– Increased use of the library by local children in their own time
More children are visiting the libraries more frequently as a result of the availability of brand new books. There has also been an increase in the number of books that children are borrowing to read both in the library and at home.
– Improved library services
As a result of the training, librarians are more confident in running their libraries, working with children and are now offering a wider range of reading activities for children.
– Increased school outreach
Librarians are now also running more outreach to local schools, with an increased number of visits to schools. They are also receiving more school groups into the library for reading activities.
As 2017 draws to a close, we are looking back over the last twelve months and forward to 2018. In this blog, our Chief Executive Alison Tweed reflects on the highlights from 2017 and gives us a preview of the year ahead.
This has been a year of change for our team at Book Aid International as we focused on putting our Vision 2020: Where Books Change Livesstrategy into action. Launched in March, our new strategy commits us to ensuring that the books we send reach those who face the greatest barriers to accessing books.
To begin making that vision a reality, we focused on establishing partnerships in new countries where people lack the books they need, as well as continuing to support all our more longstanding library and education partnerships.
The books we provided reached people in some of the most difficult to reach places in the world who are determined to keep reading in the face of instability and uncertainty about the future. We sent books to universities in Somalia, to transit camps in Greece, to schools for Syrian refugees in Lebanon and to the world’s youngest nation which continues to be gripped by conflict, South Sudan.
In 2017, we continued to expand the programme and today almost 89,000 pupils in Kenya, Cameroon and Malawi have books in their classrooms and trained teachers to help them discover how reading supports their learning.
Highlights of the year for me also included:
Helping reading and learning to flourish in Nairobi’s Mathare slum through our Book Havensproject
Giving secondary school pupils in Zambia new resources to study and succeed in their exams by creating Study Hubs
When I look back on 2017, more than anything I will remember the people who told us how the books we send are helping them to change their own lives.
I was particularly inspired by the words of 17 year old Lydia in Uganda who reminds us how determined people around the world are to read:
My dad always says ‘You shouldn’t go there, collecting books from there. Those books don’t help you.’ He doesn’t know how they help me. But my mum knows. She helps me go out to the library and get the books. I have already read all the fiction in the library – there are not enough now! We need more so we can keep learning. For me, I am going to be a writer, so I must keep reading!
Lydia is just one of the estimated 24 million people who read the books we provide in any one year. We could not reach a single one of those readers without the new books that are so generously donated by publishers, the funds we receive from individuals, trusts and companies and the hard work of our volunteers. We would like to extend a very warm thank you to all of our supporters for all that you do.
Looking forward to 2018
In 2017 we sent over 930,000 books to a wide range of new and established partners.
In 2018 we are aiming to send up to 1.2 million books and we are expanding our warehouse operations in Camberwell to help us do just that.
We will also continue to implement our Inspiring Readers,Book Havens and Study Hub projects and we are currently exploring the next steps for our work providing e-books alongside print books for children.
We are very much looking forward to a year of new partnerships and new opportunities to reach those who need books most and we hope that you will join us as we continue to work toward a world where everyone has access to books that will enrich, improve and change their lives.
John and other young readers told us about their new Book Havens:
John, 10, comes to the library to read storybooks because he doesn’t have any at home and there are none in his school. John’s favourite books are the Beast Quest series. He loves the stories and pictures in them.
Thank you for giving us good books. We love the books!
Thirteen-year-old Cynthia’s favourite subject is science but there are very few course books available at her school. At home, she has two story books which were handed down to her. Cynthia loves the new books in her library and the colourful paint and drawings on the walls:
The library used to have old books with missing pages. I am happy that all the new books are interesting and colourful. I like the new paint on the walls. Everything in the library is now very nice. I feel happy when I come to the library because I am able to read many interesting books in a beautiful place that feels like heaven.
Jason, 12, lives about five minutes away from the library. The area he lives in is very noisy both during the day and at night. Jason’s favourite subject is maths and he would like to be a pilot when he grows up. Jason likes the changes to his library:
The library is very clean, there is no litter or dirt anywhere. I like the pictures on the wall, especially the one with a cartoon playing basketball. I feel happy when I see it and I like reading in the corner where the picture has been drawn.
Ann, 8, enjoys coming to the library to read storybooks and play. Her favourite book is Five Little Monkeys. Without books, she says she would not have anything to do.
Thank you so much. We are happy with the new books.
About Book Havens
In slum communities, access to books and finding a place to read can be particularly difficult. Our new Book Havens pilot aims to provide Kenyan children who face the day to day challenges of trying to learn in slum areas with peaceful, welcoming spaces where they can explore beautiful, inviting books and be supported by trained staff and volunteers.
Two of MYSA’s libraries in Mathare took part in the Book Havens pilot and with your support we hope to extend the project to the rest of their libraries.
The librarians in these two libraries have attended training in working with children and the libraries themselves have received a donation of brand new children’s books to add to their collections, grants to decorate the children’s section and purchase child-sized furniture and a grant to purchase locally published books.
Find out more about our Book Havens project and our work with MYSA using the links below.