Tag Archives: Kenya National Library Service

Changing lives together in Kenya

Grant Thomson, People’s Postcode Lottery’s Corporate Communications Officer, recently joined a team trip to Kenya to see first-hand the difference that players of People’s Postcode Lottery’s support is making for young readers there. Here he shares his experiences.


Grant Thomson
Grant at a Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA) library in Kenya

When I found out that I’d be travelling to Kenya and meeting some of the charities that players support, including Book Aid International, I had no idea what to expect. I already had an understanding of the charity’s mission and work but I knew that experiencing it first-hand would be entirely different. And it really was.

This trip was doubly special as it was not only my first time in Kenya but my first time in Africa.

First up, we travelled to the Mathare slum in Nairobi to visit the Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA) library Around 100 adults and children from the surrounding area visit this library each day – a huge number!

Grant leads reading lesson
While at MYSA. Grant read a short story to a visiting class from a local school

As well as lending a hand to stamp and catalogue a newly arrived shipment of books, we took part in a class lesson. I put my group reading skills to the test and read a short story to the children of Toto Education Centre, a nearby school that was visiting and then quizzed them on what they had just heard. All of them got the answers correct!

Together, we helped the library staff prepare a Book Aid International Pioneer Book Box. It’s a mini library in an easy to transport box containing around 200 brand new children’s books and information for teachers on how to use the books in lessons. It was later presented to the teachers and pupils of Toto Education Centre.

knls visit
The trip included a visit to Kenya National Library Service’s headquarters where the team learned more about our joint work to supply communities across the country with all types of books

Later, we toured the new purpose-built Kenya National Library Service (knls) headquarters.  Book Aid International works with knls to provide a stock of brand-new books across more than 60 knls network libraries. The shelves have every category of book you could imagine, from bright and colourful children’s titles, to fiction and even medical, research and academic titles – this long-standing partnership is bringing books to communities everywhere.

Reading in class
A read-aloud session at Hope Education Centre in Kibera slum

After that we visited Hope Education Centre in Kibera slum. Here I sat in on a grade five lesson, where the children would each read part of a story, someone else would then re-tell it back to the class and then ask the other students questions.

Pioneer Book Box
The children at Hope Education Centre were so excited about their new Pioneer Book Box!

They too received a Pioneer Book Box – it was an incredible reaction from the school kids, many were keen to get their hands on the books and start reading there and then!

It was hugely surprising to see that libraries are so much more than spaces for accessing books. They are somewhere safe to not only read and learn but to play, sing and come together. The books Book Aid International supply offer adults and children countless opportunities to change and improve their lives.

My highlight was meeting the team at MYSA and hearing how their partnership with Book Aid International is changing the lives of the children and adults not only in Mathare but around Nairobi. The kids were wonderful, engaging and so keen to learn.

I’ve always known that the support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery is making a significant difference in Britain and beyond but seeing and hearing from some of those who are directly benefiting from players’ support brings this to life.

It’s an experience that I won’t be forgetting any time soon.


Players of People’s Postcode Lottery have supported Book Aid International since 2014 and have raised an incredible £1,850,000. A minimum of 32% of every ticket goes to support charities and good causes like ours. We’d like to thank them for their ongoing support.

Filming team

We’ve been shortlisted!

We are thrilled to announce that our new film ‘Reading Where the Wild Things Are in the Great Rift Valley’ has been shortlisted for the 2019 Charity Film Awards, beating off stiff competition from over 60 other films in our category!

The shortlist was decided by public vote and we’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who voted. Special thanks also to players of People’s Postcode Lottery for funding both the making of the film and much of our work supporting readers in Kenya.

‘Reading Where the Wild Things Are in the Great Rift Valley’ follows Pascalia, a young girl in Kenya as she discovers a new book in her library. It beautifully captures how books enrich children’s lives, helping them discover wonderful stories which stay with them throughout their lives.

The film has already been viewed over 3,000 times and this shortlisting gives us the opportunity to spread word even further word about the difference books can make.

All the shortlisted films will now be judged by a panel of experts which includes Guardian Chief Executive Evelyn Webster, BBC News journalist and newsreader David Eades and Comic Relief Founder Kevin Cahill. The panel will choose winners from each category, and those winners will be announced later this year.


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.

Githurai MYSA library

From volunteer to inspiring librarian

Like many volunteers and staff in community-run libraries, Wilson at the Mathare Youth Sports Association’s library in the Githurai slum in Nairobi, Kenya, is passionate about his work but has little training in library management or working with children.

We chatted to Wilson to find out more about his work and how the training he took part in as part of our Book Havens project is helping him support children in his community.




How did you get involved with the library and with the Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA)?

When I was eight years, we came to Githurai [slum]. I started volunteering when I was nine years, playing football with MYSA and doing clean up like garbage collection within the community. When the [library] was started, I was one of them planting the grass and flowers there. Then in 2009 I was selected to join the library. I started as a volunteer, now I am employed in the library.

When this library came, it was like breaking news! We had a lot of kids coming.


MYSA kids reading
For many local children, MYSA’s libraries provide a welcoming space they can read, learn and play


Why do you think the library was so popular with local children?

Getting a good education is very difficult for them because of the drugs in the community. The parents in the slum don’t usually take care of their kids’ studies because they just go and use the drugs. In the afternoon they forget they have kids because they are high.

Nowadays the community is different than before. Before, our parents took care of each other’s kids but nowadays they don’t even take care of their own kids.

Many of the kids coming [to the library] were from the [football] field because I am one of the coaches. So I was just helping them to read some story books, maybe some picture books. We were just doing basic things in the library. We didn’t have any knowledge about the library, any education on how to use the library.


Wilson reading
The librarian training has given Wilson and his colleagues more confidence in working with children


So how has the training you participated in as part of the Book Havens project helped you to support the children better?

The training was very good because the teacher understood where we come from and the children that we deal with. So most of the topics that they came with were how to deal with community kids and the community area.

Also, we have some kids who have special needs. Before, I didn’t understand them but after the classes I came to understand how to deal with them.

So now we are comfortable and we have confidence we can do something within the library.


Kids reading
Eager readers love the brand new books now available in their new Book Haven


What else has changed since the Book Havens came?

For the first time when we had this library, it was not attractive to the kids – we had old books. They are used to the old books so they were not usually coming here. But when Book Aid came, they came with new books. So now when they come here, they see the new books.

I would like to thank the funders of Book Aid International –  their project  is really taking us far.


MYSA Book Havens readers

Book Havens Kenya final evaluation

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.


Project background

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.

Read the full report here



Reader at Checha Primary School, Kenya

Inspiring Readers Kenya phase one report

In 2016, in partnership with the Kenya National Library Service (knls) we launched the first phase of our Inspiring Readers school libraries programme in Kenya. Twenty five schools took part and in October 2017, the first phase came to an end. This paper presents the key learnings from the first phase of the programme.

Programme background

Inspiring Readers aims to increase opportunities for primary school children to read by bringing brand new books into the classrooms of under resourced schools across Africa. So far, the programme has launched in Cameroon, Kenya and Malawi. We hope to reach 250,000 primary school children through the programme by 2020. You can find out more about Inspiring Readers here.

Each participating school receives a Book Box Library filled with 1,250 brand new books including locally published titles. Two teachers and the head teacher from each participating school also attend training in library management and in how to bring books to life in the classroom. In addition, each school is linked to its local library which already has a Children’s Corner. The libraries act as hubs, providing teachers with additional support, extra books and the expertise of a professional librarian.

Key findings from phase one of Inspiring Readers in Kenya

Lessons learned include:

– Vibrant book rich school libraries contribute to pupils’ intellectual and academic growth.

Schools have seen an increase in pupil attainment since their libraries arrived. For example at Muringato Primary School, the score in Kiswahili improved from an average of 48 % to 54 %, English from 48 % to 50% and Science from 45% to 52% in the first term exams (end of March, 2017).

– A vibrant school library raises the profile of the school in the community.

Schools involved in the project are receiving greater pupils enrolments and gaining recognition locally as they share their books with other neighbouring schools.

– Follow up by hub librarians to schools is critical for the success of the project

Regular visits from the hub librarians has provided teachers with technical support, boosted their confidence and enabled the programme to run smoothly in the schools.

– Schools grow their libraries when they see the benefit among pupils

Seeing the positive effect of books on their pupils has led schools to seek to grow their book stocks further from other sources.

Read the full report here

Inspiring Readers Kenya is funded by players of People’s Postcode Lottery. We would like to thank the players for their support!


Our award-winning library partners

We believe that libraries are hugely important to communities. They are often the best place for people to discover the joy and value of reading and access the books and information they need to support their education and develop their skills. That’s why we’re a proud to support the Kenyan Library of the Year Awards.


Maktaba Awards banner


The awards recognise the very best in library services in Kenya. Each year, we donate brand new, relevant books for each of the winning libraries’ collections. The competition is open to all types of library in Kenya and prizes are awarded to libraries in seven different categories including school, academic, public and community libraries as well as ‘special’ libraries. In this year’s award, a total of 18 libraries won, three per category.


Kisumu library celebrate their win


The awards ceremony was held in September and we were especially pleased that our partner Kenya National Library Service’s (knls) Kisumu branch library was chosen as the overall winner. Two knls branch libraries in Buruburu and Nakuru as well as the Dr Robert Ouko Community Library in Koru were also winners. knls Narok also received a special mention.


Adult section of library


We have worked closely with knls Kisumu library for a number of years. Located in western Kenya, the library has a well-used adult section and popular Children’s Corner. Both of these sections receive brand new books supplied by Book Aid International in every category from academic and professional texts to adult fiction and children’s books. The books we send reflect the wide variety of people from the local community who use the library.

We are particularly delighted to see the growth and work of the Children’s Corner. We developed knls Kisumu library’s Children’s Corner in partnership with knls in 2009 as part of the first 12 Corners we set up in Kenyan libraries. Just like the Children’s Corners we continue to create with our partners today, the Kisumu Children’s Corner received brand new children’s books, a grant to refurbish a space especially for children and a small grant to purchase locally published titles.

Two librarians also attended training in how to work effectively with children, manage a children’s corner and undertake outreach to schools and the community. Further funding enabled us to provide the Children’s Corner with tablets and training for the librarians in using the tablets with children, to support and supplement their printed book collection.

Since 2009, librarian Moses Imbayi and his team at knls Kisumu have continued to expand the library’s work, particularly with children. Through their school outreach programme, the library team now supports 1,700 school book clubs. Schools also regularly visit the Corner to take part in inter-school events including spelling bees, debates and reading competitions. In addition, the library uses the tablets to run a special programme to support children with dyslexia. They are seeing these children grow in confidence and migrate to printed books:

“We are seeing consistent improvement in their performance as far as reading is concerned. It is going to make our work as teachers easier. Teaching a child that can read on their own is much easier than teaching someone who cannot read.”

– Stephen Okong’o, Headteacher at Kaloleni Muslim Primary School, Kisumu.


It was many of these interventions and services that contributed to knls Kisumu library being chosen as the overall winner of the Library of the Year Award. We are proud to have played a part in the library’s success and delighted that their hard work has been recognised in the winning of this award.

We wish all the winning libraries, in particular Moses and his team at knls Kisumu huge congratulations on their achievement.


Digital workshop

Inspiring young readers through digital and printed resources

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.

You can download the full Learning Paper here to find out more about this project and you can also watch this short film made by the children themselves!