We recently opened the first of seven Children’s Corners in Zimbabwe – giving children the opportunity to read, play and learn. See the transformation here!
Today we have published our Learning Paper on the Children’s Books and E-Learning Pilot Project we recently ran in Kenya. The Learning Paper outlines what we found from a two year digital pilot project in Kenyan children’s libraries. You can download the full paper here and you can watch a short film that the children made themselves.
From 2013 to 2015 we ran a pilot project in partnership with Kenya National Library Service to test out the effectiveness of tablets and e-readers in children’s libraries. The Children’s Books and E-Learning Pilot Project involved providing tablets and e-readers to five libraries in Kenya with previously established Children’s Corners. We also provided new books to these libraries to explore how digital and print content works together in children’s libraries. While our projects have always centred around the printed book, we wanted to explore how providing digital books and printed books together could potentially reach more children or encourage children to use the library more frequently.
We worked with our partner Kenya National Library Service (knls) to select five libraries which would become ‘digital sites.’ Along with a collection of brand new books we also provided tablets and e-readers as well as specialist digital training for librarians. Some of the librarians had never used a tablet or e-reader themselves so it was important to offer this training so they in turn could help their young users. We also provided brand new books to a further 18 libraries in Kenya and helped them to develop their children’s services. By doing this we not only increased the reach of the project but could compare how libraries with digital resources performed against those without.
Reports from the digital project have been very promising. All five digital sites increased their numbers of children visiting and becoming members. The tablets and e-readers created a sense of excitement in communities that had little digital access previously and children were keen to try out the new technology. Games and activities on the tablets in particular helped children who are less confident readers to engage with reading and the library environment. The outreach activities that librarians have run as a result of their training have increased the number of children visiting the libraries as well as the number of members. Schools have been encouraged to visit the libraries with their students and to run ‘tab sessions’ in which children become familiar with the new technology and explore its potential. Children are developing their reading skills alongside their digital aptitude.
This doesn’t mean that introducing digital resources in libraries comes without its challenges though! Unreliable internet connections in some libraries presented real issues, although knls did ensure internet connectivity in Isiolo library, which had previously had none. The tablets and e-readers we provide are preloaded with educational content but there are challenges around how further titles would be purchased.
One area where we expected challenges was around protecting the technology itself. We had originally planned for three digital sites to cover loss or breakage and we were delighted to be able to expand this to a further two after the first year of the project saw no damage or loss whatsoever to the e-readers and tablets. This is largely due to training of librarians and children on the security and care for the e-readers and tablets.
The project was monitored with interest as this was the first time we had provided digital resources to libraries. It’s clear that children are attracted to the technology and that new methods of encouraging children to read can be very effective. Although all the libraries involved in the project saw an increase in child members, this was more pronounced in those with tablets and e-readers. Adults in these communities are also keen to experience the technology as well and the librarians are now looking at further outreach projects to engage the wider community. For us, the most important aspect is that children are provided with an environment and the resources to establish a love of reading from an early age. Now we know the benefits that digital and print resources together can bring to a library we look forward to using this dual approach in future projects where we are able, to bring the joy of reading to as many children as possible.
Download the Book Aid International Children’s Books and E-learning Pilot Project Learning Paper (PDF 2MB, Published August 2016)
Last week our Head of Communications, Jessica Faulkner, travelled to Zimbabwe to attend the launch of our first Open Doors Children’s Corner there. Here, she reports on her trip and the librarians that made this exciting new chapter a reality.
This was my first trip to Zimbabwe and I was really excited to witness the launch of our very first Open Doors Children’s Corner here. We have supported libraries in Zimbabwe with books for over 40 years but this is the first project we’ve run in the country. Together with our partners in Zimbabwe, we are opening five Children’s Corners in public libraries in Bulawayo and two in Harare – bright and colourful spaces where children can read play and learn freely. The first of these to open was Nketa library in a high-density suburb of Zimbabwe’s second city, Bulawayo. Nketa was also to be the location for the official launch of the programme in Zimbabwe.
The day before the launch I travelled to Nketa library to see how preparations were going and I was delighted to find the space busy with librarians and friends of the library who were applying the final touches to the new Children’s Corner. The space is bright and airy and has now been decorated with paintings from children’s stories, traditional African art and inspiring quotes to encourage reading. The shelves are packed with 2,500 brand new books from the UK as well as locally published books in local language Ndebele for which the project provided funding. There are cushions and mats on the floor so that children feel comfortable when reading and they know the space is their own. The librarians have all attended training in engaging young readers and running a great children’s library. The training was facilitated by expert trainer Vivienne Moyo who attended our ‘train the trainers’ session in Kenya last year.
There are five libraries in Bulawayo which will soon be opening the doors of their new Children’s Corners. What was really encouraging was that all the librarians from these libraries were at Nketa, helping to get the space ready for the launch. And this week, all those librarians will be moving from library to library to get the remaining four Children’s Corners open as well – a real team effort!
On the day of the launch we gathered in a marquee outside the library. His Worship the Mayor of Bulawayo was in attendance, as was the Acting Town Clerk. We all made speeches and even read extracts from a children’s book to remind everyone of why we were there – because books really can change lives. There was poetry, dancing and drama and then we cut the ribbon of the Children’s Corner and declare it officially open. It was almost immediately filled with children who couldn’t wait to get their hands on the new books!
Over the next few days I managed to see the remaining four libraries in Bulawayo which will shortly be opening their Children’s Corners – Nkulumane, Tshabalala, Njube and Pumula. It was really exciting to see these Children’s Corners in different stages of development and to know that soon, they’ll be full of eager children who have access to a wide selection of appealing, age-appropriate books.
Just before I left Zimbabwe, I was pleased to pick up a signed agreement from the City of Harare, which means we can now begin work on a further two Children’s Corners in the capital Harare. These libraries are also in high-density suburbs, meaning they can reach a large number of children and provide a space which is truly theirs.
This is a really exciting chapter for children in Zimbabwe. The young readers I saw using the Children’s Corners in Nketa and Njube were so excited by the new books – it’s clear there’s a real hunger to read and these new spaces will make all the difference in enabling a generation to discover the joy of reading.
We look forward to bringing updates of how the Children’s Corners in Zimbabwe are progressing. Our Open Doors Children’s Corners programme in Zimbabwe is supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.
This short film shows how our support for community schools can give every child a chance in life.
World Book Day is an annual celebration of all things bookish and it’s also a great opportunity to fundraise for Book Aid International. Every year, children and adults across the UK amaze us with their fundraising efforts. This year World Book Day was on 3rd March and we’ve been delighted to receive so many stories and pictures of what you got up to, as well as your donations of course. Here’s just a few of the great efforts you went to this year to raise money for our work.
At Newminster Middle School in Northumberland children dressed up as their favourite book characters and the librarian there reports that almost everyone got involved this year. They held a dressing up competition and the 10 winners, judged as having displayed the most ingenuity and originality with their costumes, each chose a book prize from the school’s week long Travelling Books Fair. Apparently it was not an easy decision, but well done to everyone who got involved!
The students in Mrs Leckie’s Book Group at Coltness High School in Lanarkshire organised a bake sale and raised £75.20 for our work. Huge thanks to Abby Green, Robert Langford, Caitlin Laing, Amy Kelly and Kerry Campbell for all their efforts.
Denstone Sixth Form College in Staffordshire has recently opened a new library. Their librarian told us: “It is a beautiful place for pupils to work in and provides them with access to books in a way that, we realise, so many others can only dream of.”
The college had a special display in the library about our work which fit perfectly with the opening of their new library space. Students at the college take part in fundraising activities all year round and they felt it was fitting to donate some of this money to Book Aid International on World Book Day.
World Book Day isn’t just for children and Edinburgh and York University libraries proved that this year by getting their students involved with the fun. All late fines paid on and around World Book Day were donated – helping students turn a bad deed into a very good one!
Our Community Ambassador Jane Penson also took a sophisticated approach to World Book Day and organised a fundraising dinner in Amersham. A beautiful dinner was provided and our very own Head of Fundraising and Development Hannah Watson attended and gave a short speech to raise awareness of our work. In total Jane and her guests raised over £1,000.
We’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who raised money for us on World Book Day. The donations you make really will make a huge difference to people’s lives in Africa as we’ll be able to fill more library shelves with brand new, carefully selected books that can help people discover the joy of reading.
Schools, community groups and individuals have already sent in more than £43,000. If you still have funds to donate, here’s all the information on how to get your money to us.
Watch our latest short film on our work to develop the skills of librarians so they can inspire the next generation of readers.