Tag Archives: knls

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!