Tag Archives: Children’s Corners

Reading in Kigali

An update from Rwanda

Before lockdown in Rwanda, our partner Ineza Foundation was using books you help to send to support community libraries across the country. This included five Children’s Corners that we have created together and our Voyager Container Library in Kigali, giving a whole community access to brand new books.

Lockdown has closed schools and libraries in Rwanda but Ineza Foundation are finding new ways to support the communities they work in.

Here, Ineza’s Elizabeth Mujawamaliya Johnson tells us more.

Voyager Container Library
Our Voyager Container Library in Kigali

What restrictions on normal life are being imposed because of Covid?

After the initial two-week lockdown on 21st March due, we received extensions twice until 30th April.

Now Rwanda is taking steps to ease the measures. Public transportation has resumed but with limitations, there is a curfew from 8pm to 5am, schools will remain closed until September and wearing facemasks in public is mandatory at all times.

Businesses have resumed work with essential staff while other employers continue to work from home. Markets are open for essential vendors and hotels and restaurants are now open but have to close by 7pm. Meetings in public spaces and mass gatherings are still prohibited.

Education has been affected greatly.

How is the lockdown affecting people’s lives in Rwanda?

The first challenge was lack of food, especially in Kigali and other cities because many people live on their daily incomes. If you work, you can provide a meal for your family, but if no work, then no basic sustenance.

Also since Rwandans are culturally social, it was hard to stay home and not meet friends and family. However, people have had to learn new ways of living, by sharing what they have and using the phone to communicate. The government and partners provided food and neighbours also share what they have to support the vulnerable.

School in Kigali
Schools in Rwanda are currently closed

How is the lockdown affecting children’s education?

Education has been affected greatly, but again people have had to adjust to the reality of what is happening.

The government has launched an eLearning platform using TV, phones, computers and radio. But children living in rural areas are unable to access some of these as they don’t have a TV, smartphone or computer. However, the use of the radio to provide lessons is perfect as it can reach every student everywhere in the country.

It is just the beginning and I believe that more platforms will be introduced to support children to continue their learning at home until schools resume.

We have focused on supporting our local readers and communities with food.

Do people often have books at home in Rwanda?

Rwandans are not readers and they do not have books at home. The first national/public library is less than 10 years old and a culture of reading is currently being introduced. We believe the work we are doing with Book Aid International – creating and equipping more community libraries – is a solution to create that culture though getting books in to the hands of readers.

Our library in Shyorongi … is going to be used for early childhood monitoring and support … This is a great opportunity to promote literacy by providing those new mums with new books to borrow.

How has your work changed since the lockdown?

During the past few weeks, we have focused on supporting our local readers and the communities with food distribution. Basically, we decided to focus on responding to  immediate needs and also following what the government was recommending.

Shyorongi library
Shyorongi library has been repurposed to support local new mums. Ineza Foundation hopes to lend books to them too

The libraries are still closed, but as of today, our library in Shyorongi in the Northern Province is going to be used by local community for early childhood monitoring and support. Basically, mothers with newborn babies and pregnant women will meet at the centre to receive food and to learn how to prepare complete meals for their babies. This is a great opportunity for Ineza Foundation to promote literacy by providing those new mums with books to borrow once a week, until the libraries are open again.

Here in Gisozi, we are continuing to sort books for future distributions.

We believe if we can get more books into the hands of children during lockdown, they will help further their learning.

Do you have any further plans in development?

Yes, we are working with local government officials exploring ways to use the books. We are looking at promoting take-home books distribution. We believe if we can get more books into the hands of children during lockdown, they will help further their learning. When the schools reopen, children will be able to share with their classmates about their reading at this time, they will be motivated to continue reading once back at school. Also, if we can get more books to children, parents will also read or children will read to their parents, therefore promoting the reading culture at all levels: young and adult.

The only challenge we have, is how to get these books to many children, taking into consideration the COVID restrictions. We are still having discussions; we do not want to act before approval from local government. Safety for the community comes first!


*The photos contained in this blog were taken before lockdown.

Ejere library Book Haven

Book Havens for Ethiopia

In 2018 we worked with CODE Ethiopia to pilot Book Havensa 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.

Read the report in full here.

About Book Havens

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.

Key findings

  • 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.

Special thanks to players of People’s Postcode Lottery who generously funded Book Havens for Ethiopia.

Unguja Children's Corner Zanzibar

Digital Connections Children’s Corners

The Digital Connections Children’s Corners project took place in Tanzania and Zanzibar from 2017 to 2018 in partnership with the Tanzania Library Services Board (TLSB) and the Zanzibar Library Service (ZLS).

The project aimed to enhance children’s library services in selected libraries in Tanzania and Zanzibar. A total of nine TLSB libraries and two ZLS libraries took part. Of these, five TLBS and two ZLS libraries created new Children’s Corners – child-friendly library spaces. The remaining five TLSB libraries which already had Children’s Corners implemented a digital component, introducing Kio Kit tablets to use alongside printed books.

Two evaluations were undertaken to look at the findings and recommendations from the project. One evaluation focused on the Children’s Corners sites which you can read here and the other looked at the Kio Kit sites which you can read here.

Key findings

  • Increased library use by children

Both the libraries with new Children’s Corners and those which have introduced Kio Kit tablets have seen an increase in children using the libraries and borrowing of printed books to read at home.

  • Librarians’s skills have increased

Librarians in libraries with new Children’s Corners report that as a result of the progamme training, their skills now extend far beyond issuing and shelving books. They now lead reading and other activities with the children.

Librarians working in those libraries which received Kio Kits now have the skills to introduce children to tablets and lead a range of individual and group activities using the devices.

  • Schools are also benefitting from the new reading materials

Local schools are bringing their classes to use the new Children’s Corners during the daytime to take part in reading activities. The Children’s Corners are proving so popular that libraries are having to ask schools to bring pupils at a scheduled time each week to avoid overcrowding.

Some of those libraries with Kio Kits are taking them out to local schools for pupils to use in class while others are running activities for classes to attend in the library during the school day.

Digital Connections Children’s Corners is generously funded by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. We would like to thank them for their ongoing support.

Mel and Anelka’s library

School friends Mel, 13 and Anelka, 12, regularly visit their Children’s Corner at Nketa Library on the outskirts of Bulawayo. Here they tell us about their Children’s Corner and their favourite books to read:


Nketa Children's Corner


What’s your Children’s Corner like?

Mel: It’s very quiet, clean. There’s fun books, we can take adventures.

Both: We come here when we get dismissed from school. About twice a week.

Anelka: In the library they can borrow us books to take home too.

Mel: Yes, so we can continue with our fun stories! We also study books because we are going to write the end of year examinations.

How do books help you with your exams?

Anelka: They help us with our English

Mel: Yes, English –  good language, you can write good letters and compositions…

Anekla: Good spelling.

Mel: And punctuation.

Mel and Desire
Mel and another library friend share a book together

What is your favourite thing to do when you visit the Children’s Corner?

Anelka: Drawing! And writing some notes.

Mel: Same: Drawing, writing some notes, reading comic books and novels.

What are your favourite books to read?

Anelka: There are many! … Story books

Mel: And fantasies.

And what would you both like to be when you grow up?

Mel: Mechanical engineer

Anelka: A pilot

Both: Books will help us get there because they teach us about electronics and stuff.


We would like to thank players of People’s Postcode Lottery who funded the creation of Nketa Library’s Children’s Corner and filled it with brand new books for children like Mel and Anelka to enjoy.

Happy reader

Children’s reading update from Tanzania

Even more young readers in Tanzania and Zanzibar are enjoying brand new books at their new Children’s Corners thanks to your support.

We caught up with their librarians, teachers and parents to find out more.


Young readers now have many more brand new children’s books to enjoy:

Before the project, we only had 200 books therefore the new books were a great boost to our library and our children.

– Mary Mazengo, Mbulu District Library, Tanzania.


Children are enjoying those new books in brightly painted, child-friendly spaces:

Before, there was no difference between the adult and the children’s sections. Children love the change in their section. It is more attractive.

–Mastura Abddul-Bahman Saleh, Kareem Islamic School, Unguja island, Zanzibar.


These changes to the libraries have made them very popular with local children:


Lots of children reading in the library


The library is the only child-friendly space in the whole of the district. Many children have been drawn to the library therefore we had to develop a schedule to accommodate 40 to 50 children at a time.

– Stephen Musiba, Librarian, Ngara District Library, Tanzania.


Best of all, children’s reading and learning skills are growing:

We have noticed that children are reading more books than before. The reading activities are helping because they are keen to read the books we read aloud together.

– Hudhaifa Hajji, Librarian, Unguja Library, Zanzibar.

We are happy that the library is preparing them for school. I have been bringing my three-year-old son to the library daily for five months. He can count up to 10 and sing the letters of the alphabet.

– Khalid Suleiman, parent, Pemba island, Zanzibar.


Check back soon for more updates from these new Children’s Corners. In the meantime, find out more about our work to support young readers across the world using the links below.


Lagam library Kenya

Our top 10 highlights from 2017

Thanks to your support we achieved so much in 2017!

With your help, our books reached readers in TWENTY countries, over 88,000 primary school children are enjoying new books in school thanks to our Inspiring Readers programme, more than 5,000 books reached displaced people in Greece and much more besides.

We couldn’t have done it without you.

Take a look at the ten short clips below for more of our 2017 highlights.


Highlight 10

60-year-old Florence in Kenya joined an adult education class and using the books you helped to send, learned to read for the very first time.

Highlight 9

Schools and libraries in the Occupied Palestinian Territories received twice as many books.

Highlight 8

Our amazing donors smashed our Open Doors Children’s Corners appeal’s £600,000 target, giving thousands of children in seven countries vibrant reading spaces to discover books.

Highlight 7

30,000 brand new books reached readers in Rwanda.

Highlight 6

3,806 books were shipped to the world’s youngest nation, South Sudan.

Highlight 5

5,541 books reached displaced people in Greece.

Highlight 4

Books you helped to send are now filling a library in rural Uganda where they are helping children develop a love of reading and farmers to cope with the effects of climate change.

Highlight 3

88,903 primary school children in Cameroon, Kenya and Malawi now have brand new books in their classrooms thanks to our Inspiring Readers programme.

Highlight 2

Children in Nairobi’s slums are now enjoying Book Havens in three local libraries.

Highlight 1

Thanks to your support, we sent books to 20 countries, which will reach over 20 million readers!

Thank you for your support in 2017. Here’s to getting even more books to the people who need them the most in 2018!

For more information about the work you supported in 2017, take a look at the links below.


Pupils at Korieama Primary School

2017 year in review: 20 countries in just twelve months

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 Lives strategy 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.


Boys reading
Two friends share a book at Battir Library in the West Bank


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.


Pacifique leads a reading activity
Taking part in a reading activity at Esperance Community Centre’s library in Rwanda


We also doubled the number of books provided to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, sent books to the Caribbean island of Antigua to support people displaced from Barbuda and Dominica by Hurricane Irma and began sending books to Liberia, Rwanda, Ghana and The Gambia.

Inspiring Readers, Book Havens and more

In March of this year our flagship Inspiring Readers programme won the prestigious 2017 London Book Fair International Excellence Award in the category of Educational Initiatives. It was a fantastic boost for the programme which aims to bring books into the classrooms of 250,000 African primary school pupils by 2020.


Moi Primary readers
Pupils enjoy reading in class at Inspiring Readers school Moi Primary in Kenya


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 Havens project


Young reader Jason shows us his favourite place to read in his new Book Haven


  • Giving secondary school pupils in Zambia new resources to study and succeed in their exams by creating Study Hubs


Secondary school pupils using their study hub in Zambia
Secondary school pupils using books in their Study Hub at Choma Library



The people we reached

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!

[read more]

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.


Loading a shipment
Loading a shipment at our warehouse in London


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.



December Book of the Month

Our last Book of the Month for 2017 is:


December Book of the Month
Open Very Carefully: A book with Bite! Special edition donated by BookTrust


Children will revel in the chaos of this children’s picture book which breaks down the ‘fourth wall’ and challenges ideas about what constitutes a story. The familiar tale of the ugly duckling is suddenly disrupted by a ferocious crocodile who invades the pages and starts to eat the letters.

With the letter O gone, it’s hard for the Duckling to get him to “St p! Mr Cr c dile!” Then when he gobbles up whole words and sentences, Duckling wonders “What will we read?”


Inside spread


But Duckling has a plan . . . rocking the book makes Croc sleepy and then Duckling makes him less scary by drawing a tutu on him as he sleeps. When he awakes, the angry Croc then tries to get out of the book – but has to eat his way out . . .


Inside spread


This lively and wonderfully interactive book includes additional reading tips for parents and carers to help children get the most out of this unusual story. Copies are now on their way to public, community and school libraries in many of the countries we work in where they’ll be perfect for librarians to use in reading activities and introduce young readers to the endless possibilities of what a story can be.


Young reader Cameroon

PROJECT UPDATE: Cameroon’s Children’s Corners

In 2014, we launched our Children’s Corners programme with EISERVI in Cameroon to create child-friendly spaces in ten public libraries across the country. The participating libraries were selected as they did not have suitable spaces for children and most did not have librarians trained to work with young readers.

Over the past three years, a dedicated space for children has been refurbished in each library, with brightly painted walls and child-sized furniture. Each Children’s Corner has been filled with 2,500 brand new children’s books and 100 locally-purchased books. Two librarians from each library have also attended specialist training in working with children.

Three years on, EISERVI gathered librarians from each of the ten libraries to review the impact the programme has had on local children and their wider communities.

Here, Andrew Nyenty, the Director of EISERVI, talks about the differences the programme is making and shares some of the librarians’ thoughts:


Colourful, vibrant library spaces

“The furniture, books and murals together gave each of the libraries a ‘wahoo’ expression to any visitor that came through.

Skilled librarians

The project has developed a new breed of librarians who now have the skills to run activities for children and have a lot of interest in working with children.


Librarian leads activity
A librarian leads a reading activity

The librarians have developed a network called  the Association of Council Librarians and work together sharing ideas, experiences and best practice. They visit each other’s’ libraries and as a group raise corrective ideas and issues when they visit each site.


The librarians have developed a special network to share ideas and experiences

Libraries enjoy a raised profile in their local communities

For the first time most Children’s Corners have attracted the interest of the mayors who before now never believed in the role of the library in their community:

Even with the pictures I saw, I could not imagine that a product of this nature will be the outcome of the space I provided for a library. I am thrilled by the outcome.

– Lansi Abel, Mayor of Bafut Council.

The project has also elevated the image of the librarians in the community:

In Bamenda I command a lot of respect and parents trust and confide in me about issues they have with managing their difficult children at home because they realise these children feel at home with me and trust me.

– Caroline Nche, Bamenda City Council Library.

Among other things this has led to a growth in popularity books and reading

Reading together
Children often visit the Children’s Corners on their way home from school

The library has become a centre for research and learning: Most of the children find it convenient to stop first at the library and do their assignments and some reading before going home.


Busy Children's Corner in Cameroon
Children’s Corners have made the libraries more popular with children

In all the libraries, the number of children visiting and registering has tripled. Before the project, libraries like the Kumba City Council Library could not register 20 users in a month but today they can boast of an average of 250 members in a month and more than 400 users visiting the library to read.

This is the only project in our communities that has won the hearts of parents and children alike. Parents will personally drive their children to and from the library. Some of them have ended up registering and using the library because of their children.

Children’s reading skills and educational attainment is improving

The project is very timely for our communities as most of the children have never had access to any other books apart from their curriculum books, but today they have the pleasure to choose from a wide variety they can borrow from and take home to read.

The Children’s Corners have developed a new cream of learners that believe in the power of books and reading books mean a whole lot in their lives:

I am amazed at the new appetite for reading that has sprung in the children here in Bafut, such that they can stay in the library for more than five hours after school and some will only go home when I beg them to. Their appetite for reading has also inspired me to become an avid reader.

– Esther Fru, Librarian, Bafut Council Library.

This has greatly improved their reading skills and their academic performance in their schools as indicated by Mr Sama Linus, Head Teacher at St. Agnes Nursery and Primary School:

Reading fast tracks performance, this is evident in my school.


School visit to the library
Local schools are including in their timetables visits to their nearest Children’s Corner


Schools around the libraries with Children’s Corners have also started making use of the corners as part of their timetables. They have developed and worked out a timetable with the librarians to bring their children to the library. The schools are seeing a change in their pupils as a result:”

We are proud of the Limbe City Council Library; it has increased the success rate of exam results in my school particularly. My school is a regular at the library and the impact is evident in all spheres.

– Julie Lifande, Proprietor of Spring of wisdom Nursery and Primary School, Limbe.

This library has an added-value to our teaching methodology and performance in our end of year results.

 – Mr. John Egbe, Head Teacher, Catholic Primary School Kumba Town.


Find out more about Children’s Corners and our work in Cameroon using the links below.


Kissy Library readers

In pictures: Sierra Leone’s new Children’s Corners

Schools are closed for the holidays but the library is not! The children are making very good use of the library. This is what a vibrant library should be like.


We’ve been working with the Sierra Leone Libary Board to create Children’s Corners – brightly painted, child-friendly spaces in libraries, filled with brand new children’s books, child size furniture and staff trained in working with children – in five libraries in Sierra Leone.

Librarians from each library have participated in training, the library spaces have been refurbished, the books have arrived and the Children’s Corners are now open – or very close to opening.

The children are delighted with their new spaces as are the librarians that run them.

Here we display some of the photos the librarians have been sharing with us showing the development of their Corners and how they are being used.


Makeni Regional Library


Makeni Children's Corner
Children enjoy a story-reading session at Makeni Regional Library


Port Loko District Library

Mr Mansaray, a community teacher, voluntarily teaches class four and five pupils at our library. He uses Book Aid International Books to engage the children with spelling.


Kissy Branch Library

Kissy Children's Corner
Sierra Leone Library Board staff take a look at the progress of Kissy Branch Library’s transformation


Bo City Library

A positive change of attitude has started towards reading by children and especially contributing to the uplifting standard of education in my beloved country. August is the month of heavy rains in Sierra Leone and most people prefer to stay home but the case is different in our libraries as these books from Book Aid International draw them out to the libraries. Thank you so very much.

– Theresa Wusha-Conteh, Sierra Leone Library Board