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.
Last month, our partners across 13 countries in sub-Saharan Africa celebrated International Literacy Day and the power of reading with some of the communities they work in.
From Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania’s bustling capital city to remote, rural Zimbabwe, hundreds of school children took part in reading and spelling competitions, performed marches, dances, songs and dramas, gave presentations and speeches and engaged in debates.
Local dignitaries and government officials attended as did local and national media, teachers, parents, publishers and writers as well as members of the wider communities. And all with the aim of promoting reading and raising the profile of libraries and the services they offer.
As part of the celebrations, each partner gave out 600 brand new, inspiring books that you have helped to send as prizes for participants and for schools to add to their library collections. Our hope is that these books will enable children to continue to enjoy reading long after the excitement of the celebrations have faded.
Occasions like International Literacy Day provide the perfect opportunity to promote reading and literacy. Find out more about some of our partners’ celebrations below.
Celebrations took place at EISERVI’s library in Cameroon’s capital city Yaoundé.
Once the day’s celebrations were over, children who had never visited EISERVI’s library before were keen to return as soon as they could:
Aunty, I like your library and I would like to come here and read after school. Can I?
– Wenyi Favour, Government Primary School.
In Zimbabwe, Edward Ndlovu Memorial Trust took their celebrations to Selonga Primary School’s community library in rural Gwanda where pupils from neighbouring schools as well as their parents and the wider community joined them.
In addition to competitions, performances and presentations by the children, older people from the community read short stories and spoke of how literacy has enabled them to better their own lives and the lives of their families.
Being literate is important for everyone, young and old. In this fast-changing world, being illiterate will make you lose out on a lot of things – even being in touch with the larger outside world.
– Mrs Mathe.
Kenya National Library Service’s celebrations focused on Kwale branch library. Kwale County has the second highest rate of poverty in the country and a large percentage of school drop outs. This event was a great opportunity to promote reading and the library as a means of learning outside of formal education.
It changed the way I thought about reading. I thought reading was only for academic purposes …
– Benjamin Wabwire, teacher.
Our partner CODE Ethiopia celebrated International Literacy Day at Ejere Community Library in rural Ejere town.
Becoming a reader is a must.
– Tsige, teacher.
Apart from serving the local community, I myself have got a lot that changed my life from this library.
– Lemma Kefeni, retired teacher and former librarian.
The Sierra Leone Library Board marked International Literacy Day with an event at their headquarters library in Freetown.
There was huge excitement among the children that attended – for many of them it was the first time they had participated in an event like this.
This year, the Library and Information Association of Eritrea held their celebrations at six public and community libraries across the Maekel, South and Anseba regions. This included two prisons where inmates gave speeches about the importance of reading in their lives. One 92-year-old female prisoner spoke about how she had completed first grade for the first time and is now preparing to enter second grade:
I will keep reading until my eyes no longer allow me to do so.
Grace Rwanda celebrated International Literacy Day at Ineza Children’s Corner in the Shyorongi Sector of the Northern Province.
The library has already seen an increase in visits from children and schools as a result of the event.
There are books we needed but couldn’t find them and we had limited books but now these books are here, we will read them much!
– Byaruhanga Moses, a pupil at GS Rwisirabo
International Literacy Day celebrations were also held by our partners in Liberia, Malawi, Uganda, Zambia and Zanzibar.