Tag Archives: International Literacy Day

Zanzibar ILD

Speaking up for reading

In September, our partners in fifteen African countries held celebrations to mark International Literacy Day.

Many used it as an opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of literacy and reading, introduce more members of the local community to the library and also to highlight literacy and multilingualism – the theme of this year’s International Literacy Day.

Our partners flew the flag for literacy in all manner of locations from national libraries in bustling capital cities to small community libraries in rural areas.

And everyone was invited – and attended – from Government ministers, national TV stations, newspaper journalists to mayors, chiefs, farmers, local NGOs, publishers, authors, and of course teacher, pupils and their parents.

Books you helped to send were used as prizes for participating schools, providing 100s of new, inspiring children’s books for them to add to their library collections.

Here, our partners tell us more about how they marked the day – and the impact it has had in their communities:


Cameroon ILD participants


“EISERVI library is located in Yaounde, the political capital of Cameroon. The city today is made of all ethnic groups in Cameroon and many people work as civil servants. Ongoing conflict means that IDPs are flocking to the city and school class sizes are swelling meaning that children have to share books often one between ten.

The library serves the community of Yaounde and Cameroon in general with books to meet the needs and aspirations of children and adults, academics and entrepreneurs.

Our International Literacy Day celebrations included speeches, a spelling bee, a tour of the library, poem presentations, cultural dances and a fashion parade. The activities showcased the different languages in Cameroon and students also held a debate on ‘can literacy be acquired through multilingualism?’

The children were so happy to see and access a large variety of books in a well organised library.”

I have discovered as a teacher that I still have a lot to do with my pupils concerning reading and other literacy activities. This event is a spring board for me.

– Mr Effa Joseph, Head Teacher, Government Bilingual Primary School.

“Some of the children who attended the event now come to the library after school. You can see the excitement in them as they read. Some even ask for books to read at home with their siblings.”


ETHIOPIA  – Cheffe Donsa Community Library

CODE Ethiopia‘s Cheffe Donsa Community Library supports a suburban community living about 57km outside Addis Ababa. While it is suburban, it needs further support and the community’s participation in the library is encouraging.

Our celebrations included poem presentations, reading testimonies by library users and contests between students.”

Our library set our community free from darkness. It is our university.

– An elderly participant.

GHANA  – Eastern Regional Library

Ghana Library Authority‘s celebrations were held at our Eastern Regional Library in the city of Koforidua.

Students recited poetry, performed traditional adowa dances and recited books they have read. We also held a six-book challenge in the run up in which students read six books and had to summarise each. We awarded participating students at the ceremony.”

It’s been barely a week but more kids are visiting our library after the event and now parents are making it mandatory that they come to the library even if they cannot read with them at home.

– Koforidua Library

KENYA – knls Lusumu Community Library

“This year’s celebrations were held at knls Lusumu branch library in Kakamega County, Western Kenya. The library is situated in a village where people are predominantly crop farmers and some also rear animals. There is a lot of poverty here and parents are determined to educate their children. The library was opened in 2009 to support parents in this effort – and provide a resource centre for the whole community.

There were songs, a drama, speeches based on literacy celebration. The Kakamega County Governor HE Prof Philip Kutima urged Members of Parliament within the region to consider establishing libraries within their constituencies.”

Books were given to participating schools for their libraries and many of them acknowledged that they had very few supplementary reading books in their schools.

“Following the event we have had an increase in visits, more enquiries about our services, especially from schools who want to know how they can be involved in future library events and registering as institutional members.”



Grace Rwanda‘s celebrations were held at both the Nyamagabe Youth Centre Library in Nyamagabe and Vision Jeunesse Nouvelle Library in Rubavu. Residents in Nyamagabe live on low income and are mostly farmers. The literacy rate is still moderate.”

“The ceremonies started with traditional dance to songs on the theme of reading and writing in different languages. There were speeches read aloud in Kinyarwanda, French and English. There were also spelling bees, reading aloud, debates and storytelling activities. We also had a display of donated books.

The event really helped promote the libraries and books to the wider communities.”

We were seeking books and we had to look elsewhere but now we have this library it will help us so much.

– Kagame Gad, Primary 6 student.

SIERRA LEONE – Sierra Leone Library Board HQ

“Sierra Leone Library Board’s Headquarters Library in Freetown is in a community dominated by workers, students and a few business people. The library accommodates users from all walks of life from toddlers to elderly people.

Our International Literacy Day activities included a story competition in local languages, a melodrama set to local songs and a demonstration of our French lessons for children. There was also a short skit entitled Had I Known about the importance of having reading and writing skills in your local language because you never know when you will need it. All competitions were also done in the local dialect.”

The celebration of this day each year has helped to raise awareness about reading.

SOMALILAND – Silanyo National Library


Somaliland ILD


“The Silanyo National Library is in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland. It’s the nation’s first national library and serves school pupils, teachers, university students and other members of the public.

Our International Literacy Day celebrations included a quiz for the school children covering science, geography and history in which they had to answer the questions in either Somali, Arabic or English.”

As a result of the celebrations, school teachers that attended have since decided to set a specific time for reading during their school hours.

TANZANIA – Tanga Regional Library

“Tanga Regional Library is a public library run by the Tanzania Library Services Board. The Tanga region is a coastal community where inhabitants mostly engage in fishing, crop cultivation and small-scale business. There is also an urban community of professionals and students.

Our International Literacy Day activities included a library tour, a spelling competition, a reading competition, and cultural entertainment. We also invited all audience members to select a book and read it for pleasure.

The day after the event, parents and teachers brought their children to the library to register for the book club and also to join as members.”

This is the most interesting educational programme I ever expected a local library could organise.

– Mrs Miriam Magambo, parent.

While reading is basic to learning it is also basic to survival. Lack of reading is disasterous because reading is a most efficient way of acquiring knowledge and a source of achieving sound development of our minds … A public library is a place designed to freely support the attainment of those purposes.

Abdulatif Famao, Torf Book Club CEO.

UGANDA – Nambi Sseppuuya Community Resource Centre

“The Nambi Sseppuuya Community Resource Centre is based in a rural community whose basic activity is subsistence farming. The centre is an inititative to contribute to the fight against poverty, illiteracy and disease through education and provision of reading materials.

Our activities on International Literacy Day included reading for pleasure, read alouds, storytelling, poem recitals, letter and reading games.”

The head teacher of a school just across the Nile River came back to the resource centre to thank us and to inform us that the children desired to visit the centre regularly.

“Many people who had not been to this resource centre are now visiting and calling up.”

ZAMBIA – Soloboni Primary School library

“Most of the community around this library are not in formal employment. Most of them are self-employed with no stable income.

Soloboni Primary School’s library serves both the learners and the surrounding community.

Zambia Library Service held a two day event at the school. On the first day schools competed against each other in reading competitions. On the second, pupils led a literacy parade which included a brass band and majorettes, plus book and poetry readings and debates. We also had a reading tent where young readers could enjoy books.”

There’s been an increase in the interest in books. The staff in charge of the reading tent were overwhelmed with the influx of children wanting to read.

ZANZIBAR – Unguja Public Library

“Community members’ activities in Unguja include small business, fishing and tourism. The library serves the general community from children to adults.

At Zanzibar Library Services’ celebrations we had a demonstration in which participants took slogans and pictures that promoted the culture of reading, there was a library tour and students performed a drama highlighting the importance of using the library. There was also drawing, a quiz and a book exhibition which included multilingual books that are essential for community development.”

As a result of the celebrations, many more children have been introduced to the library and the services it offers.

“The local community are now more ready to support the development of library services in Zanzibar.”


Our partners also held celebrations in the Gambia, Liberia, Malawi and Zimbabwe.

ILD celebrations in Cameroon

Celebrating literacy across Africa!

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.

The scene is set for celebrations in Tanzania


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.


Reading competition reader
A pupil in Kenya takes part in a reading competition


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.


Giving out awards
A young reader is awarded a prize at EISERVI’s celebrations in Cameroon

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.

Cameroon students
Secondary school students show off their prizes and book donation for their school library

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.

Reading competition
School children perform at Kenya National Library Service’s celebrations in Kwale


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.


Sierra Leone

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.



Tanzania Library Services Board’s celebrations took place at their Central Library in Dar es Salaam.




The event included speeches from a variety of people highlighting the importance of reading:

Look how amazing it is that reading brings people together.

– Ms Latifah Miraji, Soma Book Café, local NGO.

Do not use your smart phones to serve only films or music, rather use it to download books of your desire. Read them, understand them and let them bridge your knowledge gap.

– Aneth Amos, pupil, Jangwani Girls Secondary School.


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.


Rwandan dancers
Celebrations included dance performances


The library has already seen an increase in visits from children and schools as a result of the event.


Football match
Celebrations even included a youth football match!

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.

Murkutwo Primary

Sharing the joy of reading

On Friday 8th September, people around the world came together to celebrate the gift of reading on International Literacy Day.

Literacy is an integral part of lifelong learning yet at least 750 million adults and youth globally cannot read or write and 250 million children are failing to acquire basic literacy skills [1]. Learning to read isn’t just about having access to books – you may have access to books but never make use of them if you are unaware of the benefits. That’s why, thanks to the support of players of People’s Postcode Lottery, we worked with partners in 10 countries to put on special events to celebrate International Literacy Day and promote the value of reading to their wider communities.

Armed with brand new books for prizes, banners and posters to advertise their events and small gifts for giveaways, our partners ran a range of events to mark the big day and put reading on the map for their local communities.

From dancing and processions to reading competitions and local games, our partners celebrated the gift of reading in all sorts of ways:




Sierra Leone

Tonkolili Library Sierra Leone International Literacy Day celebrations
A reader takes a look at Tonkolili Library’s book display





As a result of these events, partners have already seen an increase in the number of people, especially school children, visiting their libraries and using the books in their collections. This is exactly what Reading Promotion events aim to achieve and we hope this trend continues in all the communities that celebrated the joy of books and reading on International Literacy Day.


[1] http://en.unesco.org/themes/literacy


Checha Primary School reader, Kenya

Celebrating where #LiteracyThrives

To celebrate International Literacy Day, we asked you to share pictures and stories of how literacy is thriving where you are. You responded with amazing accounts and photos showcasing the difference that the ability to read is making to you and your communities.

Here’s a collection of the wonderful and inspiring things you shared with us:





As a mother, if I couldn’t read, I wouldn’t know how to handle my baby and my family.

– Karen, Mathare Youth Sports Association library user, Nairobi, Kenya


Children at Bo City Library in Sierra Leone celebrate their new Children’s Corner filled with new books thanks to support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery

Reading feeds the soul. It opens opportunities for us and I think the person who does not read misses a lot.

– Fatema, West Bank

Storyteller Gaza
In Gaza, a storyteller brings a story to life for school children as part of Tamer Institute for Community Education’s annual Reading Week celebrations

Reading has allowed me to feel limitless.

Before, travel was hard because I couldn’t read signposts myself. But now I can go everywhere!

– Phocas, 28, Rwanda


This is just a small selection of all the images and stories we received. You can take a look at them all here. We’ll also be sharing more pictures from partners on our twitter feed as they celebrate International Literacy Day at their libraries over the coming weeks.


Welcoming People’s Postcode Lottery in Zanzibar

To date, players of People’s Postcode Lottery have provided an amazing £900,000 to help more people access books that will enrich, improve and change their lives. Players’ contributions to our charity are simply amazing, so earlier this year we were delighted to host People’s Postcode Lottery Managing Director Jo Bucci, Customer Experience Operations Manager Louise Donkin and Network Solutions Architect Amjad Ali Shaikh to visit one of the schools that players help us support on the island of Unguja in Zanzibar. 

In this blog, our Head of Fundraising Hannah Watson reflects on the visit and why the support of players is so important to our work in Zanzibar and across Africa.

Zanzibar is a Tanzanian archipelago off the coast of East Africa. Our charity has worked in Tanzania since 1960 and every year we distribute thousands of books to libraries and schools as well as running projects which invest in library and school services.

There is a great demand for books across Zanzibar, but libraries and schools have very little budget for purchasing books, so classrooms rarely have anything more than a few textbooks issued by the government. Zanzibar’s children are taught in the national language of Swahili until Year Four, after which they are taught in English, so there is a particular demand for English books to help children make this transition. Thanks to the support of players of People’s Postcode Lottery, we are able to provide many of these books into the schools that need them most and we took Jo, Louise and Amjad to one of those schools.

Our visit started with an early morning trip to Regeza Mwenda Primary School, where more than 2,000 pupils have lessons during the morning before giving over the whole school building to the afternoon shift of secondary school students. This shift system isn’t unusual on Zanzibar, where a growing population and squeezed government resources results in overcrowding in many schools, but Jo, Louise and Amjad were still surprised to see that some classes had to be held out of doors because there wasn’t enough room in the small classrooms, some of which don’t even have furniture.

Despite the challenges the school is facing, we received a lovely warm welcome from the staff and pupils and it was great to see how the school have been using their books. I was inspired to see how hands on Jo, Louise and Amjad were! They got straight down to meeting the children and reading with them. People’s Postcode Lottery is based in Edinburgh so they had brought some beautiful new books about Scotland as gifts. Jo confessed she was worried that they might find words like Edinburgh or concepts like the Loch Ness Monster difficult to understand, but the children immediately began reading with the visitors and loved learning about the new places and ideas!

In the afternoon, we visited the main library to attend the opening ceremony of the new Children’s Corner. Local children entertained the visitors with their traditional dancing and singing, before getting a chance to use the corner themselves and take part in fun reading activities put on by the librarians, while smaller children got to grips with some board books and enjoyed running around in their brand new space.

The generosity of players of People’s Postcode Lottery allows us to do so much and it was absolutely wonderful to see Jo, Louise and Amjad interacting with just of a few of the many thousands of readers who benefit from the £900,000 we have so far received. The timing of the visit was also fantastic, as players of People’s Postcode Lottery are funding the Zanzibar library service to celebrate International Literacy Day on 8 September. These funds will allow the library to welcome more people into reading and helping them create spaces where literacy can thrive and we cannot thank the players enough.

I thoroughly enjoyed giving People’s Postcode Lottery staff a close-up view of what players’ generosity makes possible and we look forward to many more years of working together.

Our entire team here at Book Aid International would like to thank People’s Postcode Lottery for sending Jo, Louise and Amjad to Zanzibar – we hope they enjoyed the visit as much as we did!

Zanzibar is just one of the places where literacy is thriving. Players are also funding International Literacy Day celebrations in 10 other countries and territories. These celebrations take place on Friday, 8 September. For real time updates or to see more of the places where literacy is thriving, follow@book_aid or read our where literacy thrives’ blog.

Zambia kids promoting reading to classmates

Literacy around the world

It’s International Literacy Day on Friday!

To celebrate, in the run up we are sharing photos and quotes from our partners and their readers across the world, showing the difference literacy is making for them.

Here is a round up of just a few of the inspiring things they have shared so far.



Children in Nkondo, Rwanda, enjoy books in their homes and local community as part of our partner Ready for Reading‘s outreach programme:

Reading in the community Rwanda



When schools in Chesengoch, a rural village in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley, joined our Inspiring Readers programme, adults in community saw an opportunity to learn to read too and started an adult education class.

Adult learners


Now I can read prices and make sure I get a fair price when shopping at the market.

–Florence, 60, new reader, Chesengoch



In Zanzibar, librarians at Unguja library use reading activities like read-alouds to introduce young children to the joy of books and reading:

Unguja library activity



Children in Nairobi’s Mathare slum enjoy a peaceful book-filled afternoon at their Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA) library:

Reading in MYSA's library Kenya


Sierra Leone

Bo Regional Library in Sierra Leone’s new Children’s Corner bustles with readers:

Bo Regional Library


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.



In Iraq, displaced children continue to read and learn thanks to War Child UK’s Temporary Learning Spaces:


Pupils in Bungoma County, Kenya, share a story from their new Start a Library school library:

Bungoma County Kenya


Occupied Palestinian Territories

In Gaza, school children enjoy a reading activity by the sea as part of Tamer Institute for Community Education‘s annual National Reading Week celebrations across Palestine:

Reading in Gaza


I believe reading helps us create a clear vision about society.

–Areen Bibal El Ateek, 15, West Bank.


We’ll be sharing more from our partners over the course of the week so check back here or keep an eye on our Twitter and Facebook feeds.

This campaign isn’t just about what is happening in our global partner network – we want to see photos of all the ways that literacy is changing people’s lives where you live too. Tweet us or share on Facebook how it’s flourishing where you are – and don’t forget to include the hashtag #LiteracyThrives.



MEDIA RELEASE: Reading for the first time at 60 in rural Kenya

This International Literacy Day, 8th September, Book Aid International is celebrating readers like Florence Chaptlo, 60, who has used books the charity sent to her rural Kenyan village with the support of players of People’s Postcode Lottery to learn to read for the first time in her life. Prior to having the books in her adult learning class, she could not even write her name. “Now I can get a fair price when I shop and use a mobile phone!”

The charity’s ‘Where Literacy Thrives’ campaign, which begins on 31st August, will highlight the unsung heroes in public libraries as well as libraries in schools, refugee camps and small community-run libraries who work tirelessly to help people access books and support learners like Florence as they begin to read.

The campaign will see the charity sharing images, stories and videos submitted from its global network of partners around the world which show all the places where literacy is thriving in the week leading up to International Literacy Day on 8th September. Libraries, schools and readers around the world will also be invited to share their own reading experiences and images, quotes and stories of the places where reading and learning are flourishing using the hashtag #LiteracyThrives.

International Literacy Day 2017 is also the charity’s second year providing funds, marketing materials and support to enable libraries to hold their own reading promotion events. This year, thanks to funds from players of People’s Postcode Lottery, 11 libraries in 10 countries will hold community events which will raise awareness of the value of reading. Book Aid International will live tweet as many of these events as possible to end its campaign.

Book Aid International is proud to be helping to create spaces where literacy and learning can thrive even in some of the world’s most isolated and vulnerable communities. The charity’s Head of Programmes, Samantha Thomas-Chuula, explained saying:

“We are very proud to play a role in helping people like Florence to learn to read, who never had the opportunity to learn as a child. These changes can be truly life-changing and we’re looking forward to featuring stories from the places where literacy is thriving despite huge challenges. We’ll feature images supplied from Iraq, traditional pastoral communities in Kenya and even Rwandan hospitals – and we hope that many teachers, readers, librarians and families will join in and share their own stories of the places where #LiteracyThrives!”

Samantha also extended the charity’s thanks to players of People’s Postcode Lottery for helping the charity publicise the campaign and encouraging its players to share their own experiences of the places where literacy thrives on social media.

The campaign begins on 31st August and the charity is encouraging anyone who loves to read to be a part of the campaign by sharing their own reading experiences using the hashtag #LiteracyThrives. To follow the campaign, follow @book_aid, visit www.bookaid.org/latest or like the charity on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/bookaid/




About the campaign

Book Aid International is the UK’s leading international book donation and library development charity. Every year, the charity sends more than one million books to thousands of libraries around the world where people would otherwise have few opportunities to read.

The charity is marking International Literacy Day on 8th September by shining a light on the work of librarians and teacher-librarians around the world who are creating spaces where literacy and learning can thrive. These often un-sung heroes work tirelessly supporting adult readers who may be beginning to read later in life, helping children growing up in non-literate households discover books and reaching out to even the most remote communities.

The charity will highlight the work of these literacy champions around International Literacy Day by sharing their first-hand photos, quotes, video clips and stories showcasing their work and how literacy is changing lives in their communities. In addition to images, videos and stories from overseas the charity also has a strong literacy case study with high resolution images and a large collection of literacy images that can be put together in a gallery.

For further information, pictures or comment please contact Jenny Hayes, Communications Executive at Book Aid International.

e: jenny.hayes@bookaid.org
t: 020 7326 5801

About People’s Postcode Lottery

  • People’s Postcode Lottery is a charity lottery. Players play with their postcodes to win cash prizes, while raising money for charities and good causes across Great Britain and globally
  • A minimum of 31% goes directly to charities and players have raised £221.2 Million for good causes across the country
  • £10 for 10 draws paid monthly in advance with prizes every day. For further prize information visit: www.postcodelottery.co.uk/prizes
  • Maximum amount a single ticket can win is 10% of the draw revenue to a maximum of £400,000
  • Players can sign up by Direct Debit, credit card or PayPal online at www.postcodelottery.co.uk, or by calling 0808 10-9-8-7-6-5
  • Postcode Lottery Limited is regulated by the Gambling Commission under licences number: 000-000829-N-102511-014 and Number: 000-000829-R-102513-013. Registered office: Titchfield House, 69/85 Tabernacle Street, London, EC2A 4RR
  • People’s Postcode Lottery manages multiple society lotteries promoted by different charities. For details on which society lottery is running each week, visit www.postcodelottery.co.uk/society
  • This prize was part of the draw promoted by People’s Postcode Trust
Florence, Lagam, Kenya

Where #LiteracyThrives

International Literacy Day, 8th September, is just around the corner. Once again, we’ll be marking the occasion by supporting libraries in Africa to hold events promoting the value of reading to their communities, but we also wanted to do a bit more. We’re launching a campaign, ‘Where Literacy Thrives’, to showcase how libraries and librarians create places where literacy can thrive and how books are vital to those still struggling to overcome illiteracy or low reading levels today.

Chikonga Community School, Zambia
A teacher takes a look at a book with a pupil at Chikonga Community School in Zambia

The challenge

Globally at least 758 million youth and adults still cannot read and write and 250 million children are failing to acquire basic literacy skills[i]. Becoming literate enables people to find jobs, shape their own futures and has even been shown to allow mothers to raise healthier children, so increased literacy rates is vital to changing lives worldwide.

The challenges to literacy differ around the world, but no matter where a person lives they need books to learn to read. Without books in schools, children are less able to become confident readers. Adults with low literacy who cannot access books will have very few opportunities to even attempt to learn to read. These individuals also need support as they begin to read and overcome illiteracy.


Lagam, Kenya
Sharing books after an adult education class in Chesengoch, Kenya

Celebrating libraries this International Literacy Day

International Literacy Day is celebrated annually worldwide and brings together governments, NGOs, private sectors, communities, teachers and learners to mark all that literacy makes possible and reflect on the challenges to literacy that remain.

This year, we are celebrating International Literacy Day by shining a light on the unsung librarians, teachers, volunteers and educators who maintain and create spaces where literacy thrives.

Librarians have a critical role to play in helping children who are growing up in non-literate households discover books and offering a helping hand to adults who are learning to read later in life. Libraries in communities where illiteracy is high are also often best placed to advocate for the value of books and reading in their own communities.

Many of the librarians we support do much more than simply waiting in their libraries for readers to visit. They are reaching out to schools, running mobile library services for remote communities and working with community leaders to raise awareness of the value of literacy.

Regeza Mwendo Community School, Zanzibar
Pupils share a book at Regeza Mwendo Community School in Zanzibar

Highlighting the places where #LiteracyThrives

We have asked our partners around the world to share photos of their work helping literacy and learning flourish. In the run up to International Literacy Day, we will share a photos, quotes and stories from our partners showcasing all the diverse ways that libraries help people discover books, read and become more literate.

Thanks to funds from players of People’s Postcode Lottery, we are also funding our partners to hold their own events promoting the value of reading on or around International Literacy Day in 10 countries. We’ll cap our International Literacy Day celebrations by live tweeting as many of those events as possible. Follow @book_aid or join us on Facebook to stay up to date.

Show us how #LiteracyThrives where you live

This campaign isn’t just about what is happening in our global partner network – we want to see photos of all the ways that literacy is changing people’s lives where you live. We’re encouraging readers, librarians, families and educators both at home and aboard to join us in the week leading up to International Literacy Day by sharing their own experiences on social media using the hashtag #LiteracyThrives.

To take part, you can:

– Share a photo of yourself reading
– Share a video of your classroom or library
– Share a photo of the book that got you excited about reading
-Share your favourite quote about reading or literacy
– Share a photo of your family reading together
– Share a story of how reading has helped you or someone you know

After International Literacy Day, we’ll pull all of these photos, quotes and videos together and create a gallery that shows all the ways that literacy and books are changing lives.  We hope that you will take part as we celebrate literacy!

Don’t forget to include the hashtag #LiteracyThrives!


[i] http://en.unesco.org/themes/literacy-all

International Literacy Day celebrations in Ethiopia

Reading Promotion 2016: Lessons and country reports

In 2016 Book Aid International launched a Reading Promotion campaign – a new project that would promote the local community and value of reading to local communities.

The vision of the campaign was to amplify the voice of our partners in favour of support for library services. We wanted to support libraries’ work promoting their services as vital resources to be used by all community members, to be valued by local authority and decision takers and be seen as valued resources in national development and educational agendas.

What we did

We provided prizes, funding, marketing materials and suggestions to libraries in five countries so that each library could run its own event on or around International Literacy Day, 2016 (September 8th).

We encouraged libraries to engage the local community and encourage reading amongst children so that all members of that community understood the importance of reading and use the day as an opportunity for the community to discover or rediscover the library.

We also suggested a range of literacy activities which libraries could run, competitions and games for children and parents alike to denote that reading as fun. In all cases, we also suggested that libraries invite the mass media, dignitaries and other guests of honour to capture the spirit of the event, showcase the activities on offer to a wider general audience and build support for their services.

Outcomes – Adults and children attending the events

Countries participated included: Cameroon, Ethiopia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. In each country, the event was different to reflect the local challenges and opportunities that each community faced. We have summarised some of the key outcomes are highlighted below.


Country No. Adults attended No. Children attended/Participated
Cameroon 50 250
Ethiopia 200 100
Uganda 132 122
Zambia 49 131
Zimbabwe 92 114



Outcomes – mass media in attendance

Country Mass media support
Cameroon Vision 4 – radio and TV station

BBC Radio

The Post, The Sun, The Star, The Guardian Post, The voice newspapers

Ethiopia Ethiopian Herald newspaper

Brana Radio programme (FM 97.1)

Sierra Leone Africa Young Voices newspaper

New Vision newspaper

Uganda Invited but did not respond
Zambia Zambia Information Service (ZIS)

Radio Mano and Radio Lutanda

Zimbabwe Invited but did not respond


Each participating library prepared a report detailing what they did on the day. Click on the links below to read their reports.


Freetown library

Celebrating International Literacy Day in Sierra Leone

Jessica Faulkner, our Head of Communications, travelled to Sierra Leone earlier this month to visit the libraries and new projects that we have begun to support in 2016. While she was there, the Sierra Leone Library Board celebrated International Literacy Day (8th September) and Jessica went along to the celebrations in Freetown Central Library.

International Literacy Day is a chance for people around the world to celebrate the joy of reading and the opportunities it can bring. It is also a day to remember that there are still millions of people around the world who cannot read and whose future prospects are limited by this. For many of us, going without the sheer pleasure of reading a great book is hard to imagine.

The 21 libraries of the Sierra Leone Library Board have celebrated International Literacy Day for many years and 2016 was no different. This year, as we have just begun to support libraries in Sierra Leone, we were happy to supply a banner, posters, pencils and balloons for children to help the day go with a bang. Most importantly though, we also provided 100 brand new books to mark the day so that children could go back to their schools with the beginnings of a new library collection.

Freetown Library

The new school term hadn’t started by 8th September in Sierra Leone but that didn’t stop children from turning up for the celebrations. As well as children of all ages, there were teachers, heads of schools and community members. We were treated to children reading aloud, reciting poems, telling us local stories and acting out short sketches on the importance of literacy and education in the 21st century. Their passion for reading was clear to see.

International Literacy Day

In a country like Sierra Leone, International Literacy Day is more than a celebration of books. It is a chance to encourage reading and to change the future direction of the country. Sierra Leone’s adult literacy rate stands at just 45%. This means that more than half of the adults in the country cannot help their children to learn to read. Their employment prospects are limited to jobs which do not require reading or writing. They cannot understand the instructions on a medicine bottle or read the many public health posters around the country about protecting against infection and preventing Ebola. That’s why days like these are so important. They remind communities of the importance of reading and they promote ways in which children can access books that can make a huge difference in their lives.

While I was in Sierra Leone, I also spent two days visiting rural schools in some of the more impoverished areas of the country. Through a partnership with Plan International we have begun supplying small collections of books to these schools – often the only books the school has. I met parents, teachers and children in the villages and was struck by the parents’ passion for their children’s education. Many of these parents are illiterate but they understand the value of education and literacy for their children. They want a better future for their children – a future where opportunities are not limited by illiteracy. This is what International Literacy Day is all about.

Book Aid International supported six partner countries to celebrate International Literacy Day in 2016 by providing promotional items, guidance and new books for children.