Yosef, 8, lives in Beit Furik, a small town in the West Bank, Occupied Palestinian Territories. Beit Furik sits just outside the city of Nablus, but the on-going political instability in in the West Bank means that there is a military checkpoint between Beit Furik and Nablus. The checkpoint closes regularly and when it is shut children who attend Nablus schools cannot attend, parents cannot go to work and even emergency services cannot get through.
These closures are disruptive and upsetting for all of Beit Furik’s residents, but particularly for children like Yosef. In these challenging circumstances, the town’s library provides a safe, welcoming place for Yosef and other children to read and learn. Local librarians use the books we send to run enriching activities which help the children deal with their upset and frustration with the difficulties the checkpoint causes.
Here Yosef tells us how he feels about his local library.
I live an hour away from Beit Furik. I walk all the way from my house to school and from school to the library. It’s a tiring distance, but I like to come to the library to read books. It’s a good place for reading because it is quiet. We also do activities. Today the librarian read a story for us [Winnie the Witch’s Amazing Pumpkin] and we had a discussion about it. Then we drew pictures imagining what we would turn pumpkins into. I drew a house.
When I am older, I want to be an architect because I like drawing. Books will help me become an architect because they help me to think in different ways and give me ideas about drawings.
I like reading English books because I also want to learn English. I want a good grade in English at school – you need high grades for engineering. My favourite book is Tanino Elkhafi [Disappearing Tanino]. It’s about a boy who has to memorise something to say in class but he can’t remember it. So he wishes he would disappear and he does.
Books also taught me about justice. I read about a book about two boys who hit an old woman and how she sought justice. If I didn’t have access to books, I’d never have learned justice.
This is the first in a series of blogs from the children of Beit Furik and we look forward to sharing more of their stories soon.
In the West Bank, books you help to send aren’t just being read. They are being used to inspire budding artists, create new ideas for local publishing and take young people on journeys to far off cultures and lands.
The books from Book Aid International are important for Tamer Institute Resource Centre, artists in Palestine, children and teachers.
They help children here to travel to cities and countries and cross borders that they are not able to cross in reality:
I read short stories for the children. These books help us to discover the whole world because we are not able to visit due to the Palestinian situation. Without them, we wouldn’t have enjoyed all the journeys we went on and continue going on together.
– Raghad, Librarian, Battir Municipal Library.
The books are also a great source of inspiration for us at the Tamer Institute – they provide our resource centre with many ideas that can be developed into reading activities.
We also have a small publishing unit and these books give Tamer and Palestinian artists and designers ideas for illustrations and book design.
In 2018, we also received many braille books from Book Aid International and these books are not found locally so it’s a great opportunity for blind people to read.
For those interested in learning English or improving their language, the books are a great source:
I study English Language and Literature at Bethlehem University. I love reading and writing and learning new languages and discovering new cultures. Therefore, I think I’m lucky to have English books in our library. They really help me in building my English language.
– Raghad, Librarian, Battir Municipal Library.
Many school pupils and university students who are interested in visual art use these books to learn from and design games, cards, films and pop up books. They find the books very inspiring.
I’m interested in drawing and I use the books you donate to know more about illustrators and their work. These books gives joy to my life, and the opportunity to feel free. I think that without these books I wouldn’t have the chance to know about other cultures and the different artistic styles including illustrations and illustrations from different cultures.
Our Book of the Month for November is this title from the Arabic Club for Kids:
The Arabic Club for Kids is a bright, fun series of books for young learners of Arabic, designed to nurture confidence and motivation in reading.
They have been created by experienced Arabic teachers and authors and titles are grouped into colour bands for different reading abilities.
These books cover a wide range of stories and topics in both fiction and non-fiction and are brought to life by bright eye-catching photos and illustrations. They are designed for guided reading but can also be used for class story time or to read independently.
Oxford University Press have donated huge numbers of books in this series and copies have been sent to our partners working with displaced people in Greece, Lebanon and Jordan as well as our partners in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
For children uprooted from their homes through conflict and living in new, unfamiliar countries, reading books in their own language can provide a sanctuary and the opportunity to relax in otherwise stressful situations. Books for young readers like this will also enable children to develop their reading skills, ensuring their education continues in spite of being far from home.
Last year, you helped us to send over 400,000 brand new children’s books to young readers around the world.
Bright and engaging children’s books are not only fun to read but they can inspire young imaginations, help children overcome their fears and learn how to navigate the world around them. Librarians, teachers and storytellers are an integral part of enabling to children get the most out of books and encouraging a love of reading from a young age.
We talked to Hamzeh, Raghad and Nidaa in the West Bank about the books they particularly love to share with the children they work with:
Hamzeh, Palestinian storyteller
Farmer Enno and His Cow by Jens Rassmus
I was fascinated by these lines from the story:
“What shall we do now?” he asked. “Now that I’ve seen the ocean, I don’t want to be a farmer. I want to sail the high seas, but the ships are gone.”
“Don’t worry” said Africa. “Sell your farm and buy a ship.”
I believe that it’s important that our children learn that no doctor can cure their dreams. Dreams only stop being dreams when they became reality. This story teaches children to follow their dreams and to break all the boundaries that prevent them from accomplishing what they want. As a story teller, I believe in spreading positive messages; and this is my message to children.
Raghad, library volunteer, Battir
Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson
I always borrow this story and discuss it with the children at Battir Public Library and develop activities around it for them. This story touches the children. Each time I read it to them, they tell me that they don’t want to miss any chance to be kind to others. This lights something inside me.
Nidaa, librarian, Hebron
The Dark by Lemony Snicket
Fear of the dark is fear of the unknown. If you are unable to see what is out there, your imagination is quite adept at filling in the frightening gaps for you. This book teaches children that everything has a reason to be.
There is a creaky, old roof mentioned earlier in the book but, “without that creaky old roof, the rain would fall on your bed.” Understanding why something is there helps to conquer one’s fear of it.
Hamzeh, Raghad and Nidaa are just some of the inspiring people who bring to life the books you help to send. Meet more inspiring librarians and learn about our work to support their skills development using the links below.
Lina, a Civil engineering student at Palestine Polytechnic University is an avid reader. She fell in love with reading for pleasure when she discovered how books can introduce you to new ideas and ways of thinking.
We caught up with Lina to find out more about how books have – and are – shaping her outlook.
The book is the gate you open to explore new cultures, travel through many strange countries; smell the odors of Indian spices in old markets, feel the cold weather in the North Pole.
Reading books is the most pleasant joy I have discovered. I started reading books in the sixth grade when my school opened its brand new library. I was thrilled to see what effect a book could have in my thoughts, culture and personality. Since that moment, reading has been my favorite hobby!
As a young Arab reader, I started reading Arabic books. Then when I turned 14, I decided I should develop my English language and the easiest and most fun way to do this was reading English books.
The most inspiring novel in English I have read was The Music of Dolphins by Karen Hesse. It tells the story of Mila, raised by dolphins, specifically by a mother dolphin who lost its child.
One day, Mila is found on a cay and rehabilitated by humans. It’s believed that Mila has been living there since her plane crashed when she was a young girl. The doctors who find Mila teach her to speak and act like a human. But Mila’s longing for the ocean and her dolphin family overwhelms her. The format of the book changes, the font growing larger and sentences becoming shorter as Mila struggles to return to the dolphins.
It was fascinating that someone could be a physical human and a sociological dolphin. It made me think that the environment has the deepest effect on a child’s personality and we should do our best as individuals and institutions to make a generation of healthy citizens.
This novel showed me that humans will never forget the people who raised them, cared about them and gave them love in the first stages of their life. Since then, I started treating children and people generally in a more kind and caring way, knowing that a small, simple act could have a very big effect in their life.
Finally, I learned that home is a very valuable gift. No matter how big or small, home is the place where we feel safe, loved, cared for and delighted. If we meet someone who has never felt this, we should try our best because everyone deserves it. Perhaps that’s the thing I have been doing most since I finished reading this book.
Haneen is the Programmes Coordinator at our partner Tamer Institute for Community Education, a non-profit working in the West Bank and Gaza (the Occupied Palestinian Territories) to support both formal and informal education and learning under the difficult social and economic conditions they experience.
All Palestinians’ freedom of movement is restricted by a complex system of controls, such as permits, checkpoints, roadblocks and segregation wall. 
We talked to Haneen about the difference books make for her as a young woman living in Jerusalem and how she thinks they can help other women and girls like her cope with the challenges they face and pursue their ambitions.
What are the particular challenges that women living in Palestine face?
Women in Palestine face many challenges on a daily basis. In general terms, Palestinian women suffer from a low employment rate. The poor infrastructure and almost total absence of public transit to and from Palestinian Arab villages play a central role in women’s social exclusion and have a particularly negative effect on their ability, though not on their willingness, to join the work force.
The separation wall has resulted in the permanent division of communities and restricts access to medical care, schools and workplaces. The Wall, as well as the over 500 other obstacles throughout Palestine (including checkpoints and road blocks) have greatly increased travel time and costs. These restrictions present particular risks for expectant mothers, resulting in the denial of their right to health. Furthermore, frequent body searches at checkpoints do not, as a rule, observe women’s right to privacy.
Although men are those most often imprisoned by Israeli occupation, women bear the costs of their detention: the burden of running a household and raising children, as well as interceding on behalf of prisoners, visiting and taking care of them once released – all weigh heavily on women’s shoulders
I face the wall and the checkpoints on a daily basis. My privacy is violated on a daily basis too. I often feel that my life is wasted waiting on checkpoints to cross from one city to another.
How have books helped you to overcome or cope with these challenges?
For me, books are a spiritual resource to shore myself up against challenges. They give me a reason to hope and dream, develop my identity, strengthen my confidence.
Books create a solid ground for me where I can feel stable and safe. They open a wide window to a normal life; to many other lives that I could have lived.
For me books can shorten the waiting time in front of any checkpoint and shorten the distance between imagination and reality. Books make me see what is beyond the walls and to dare to dream.
How do you think books can help other women and girls in Palestine?
Books can bring Palestine closer to those who can’t see it because of all the barriers built by the occupation. It makes you imagine the sea even if you can’t reach it, it makes you imagine the plane, the train . . .
Books make you travel, learn and most importantly reach what you are unable to reach in reality. They give strength to fight to overcome challenges and overcome barriers, both the physical and mental ones. I believe that books can help Palestinian girls and women live a better life than what they are living in reality.
The Gaza Health Sciences Library in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is the main medical library in the Gaza strip. Its books provide medical staff and students in Gaza with the vital information they need to deliver quality healthcare.
Border closures and air and sea blockades mean that Palestinians living in Gaza are unable to freely access other parts of the Palestinian Territories or the outside world. Blockades also mean that the import of goods such as books is limited. The books you help to send to this library are therefore a lifeline for the medical staff and students to keep their knowledge and skills up to date.
Here Mahmoud, Project Coordinator at the library tells us more about the difference the books you help to send are making to healthcare in Gaza.
We have lived under blockade for more than 12 years. Our port is closed and we have three hours of electricity a day.
Our vision for the library is to be a modern library, like other libraries outside. So we try to develop our services and offer services like books, journals, online subscriptions but the blockade prevents us from keeping the books in the library updated.
We have been supported by Book Aid International for three years and since then we have seen an increase in the use of the library. Our doctors can’t go out so these books keep them updated like other doctors in the world. Without the books from Book Aid International, all the books in the library would be more than fifteen years old.
The books you help to send users – new books in more than 48 different subjects in health – offer a big help to our users. They give them windows they can look through to keep them updated with new information and help them improve their knowledge more and more.
My hopes for the future are to develop the health sector in various ways and also for people in Gaza to have freedom.
Waseem, 10, lives in Battir, a small village on the outskirts of Bethlehem in the West Bank.
Day to day life for children like Waseem can feel isolated due to local checkpoints and roadblocks. A train line runs through Battir but Palestinians are unable to travel on it. Restrictions on travel between the West Bank, Gaza and Israel can further add to a sense of isolation.
Waseem’s mum is the librarian at Battir Municipal Library and the new books you help to send are giving Waseem the chance to make the most of his education and learn about the wider world – and share it with other friends.
Here, Waseem tells us why books are important and how he and his friends are using them:
My favourite subject at school is sport and I’d like to be an astronaut when I grow up. At our library, we learn English, we learn Arabic and we find out new things. What we don’t know, we learn in the library. If we didn’t have any books, we wouldn’t know any new information and it would be hard.
My favourite book in Arabic is called The First Well. It is a true story about a very poor Palestinian man who collects money from his grandmother to buy a pencil and a book and he went to school and he learned every letter. When he went home, he taught his grandmother.
My favourite English book is Bish Bash Bosh because I like the sounds of the words. We have English stories read to us at the library. We also draw pictures from the English books we read and then write a caption about the picture in English.
We have also been doing group presentations on the books from Book Aid International. We chose Animals in Danger because we love animals and when we heard that some animals are extinct, we wanted to see which ones were extinct and why. Next we are going to put the presentations on PowerPoint.
It is very useful having English books because we want to learn English. It is a very international language and will help us all over the world.
To find out more about Waseem’s library and our work in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, take a look at the links below.
Thanks to your support we achieved so much in 2017!
With your help, our books reached readers in TWENTY countries, over 88,000 primary school children are enjoying new books in school thanks to our Inspiring Readers programme, more than 5,000 books reached displaced people in Greece and much more besides.
We couldn’t have done it without you.
Take a look at the ten short clips below for more of our 2017 highlights.
As 2017 draws to a close, we are looking back over the last twelve months and forward to 2018. In this blog, our Chief Executive Alison Tweed reflects on the highlights from 2017 and gives us a preview of the year ahead.
This has been a year of change for our team at Book Aid International as we focused on putting our Vision 2020: Where Books Change Livesstrategy into action. Launched in March, our new strategy commits us to ensuring that the books we send reach those who face the greatest barriers to accessing books.
To begin making that vision a reality, we focused on establishing partnerships in new countries where people lack the books they need, as well as continuing to support all our more longstanding library and education partnerships.
The books we provided reached people in some of the most difficult to reach places in the world who are determined to keep reading in the face of instability and uncertainty about the future. We sent books to universities in Somalia, to transit camps in Greece, to schools for Syrian refugees in Lebanon and to the world’s youngest nation which continues to be gripped by conflict, South Sudan.
In 2017, we continued to expand the programme and today almost 89,000 pupils in Kenya, Cameroon and Malawi have books in their classrooms and trained teachers to help them discover how reading supports their learning.
Highlights of the year for me also included:
Helping reading and learning to flourish in Nairobi’s Mathare slum through our Book Havensproject
Giving secondary school pupils in Zambia new resources to study and succeed in their exams by creating Study Hubs
When I look back on 2017, more than anything I will remember the people who told us how the books we send are helping them to change their own lives.
I was particularly inspired by the words of 17 year old Lydia in Uganda who reminds us how determined people around the world are to read:
My dad always says ‘You shouldn’t go there, collecting books from there. Those books don’t help you.’ He doesn’t know how they help me. But my mum knows. She helps me go out to the library and get the books. I have already read all the fiction in the library – there are not enough now! We need more so we can keep learning. For me, I am going to be a writer, so I must keep reading!
Lydia is just one of the estimated 24 million people who read the books we provide in any one year. We could not reach a single one of those readers without the new books that are so generously donated by publishers, the funds we receive from individuals, trusts and companies and the hard work of our volunteers. We would like to extend a very warm thank you to all of our supporters for all that you do.
Looking forward to 2018
In 2017 we sent over 930,000 books to a wide range of new and established partners.
In 2018 we are aiming to send up to 1.2 million books and we are expanding our warehouse operations in Camberwell to help us do just that.
We will also continue to implement our Inspiring Readers,Book Havens and Study Hub projects and we are currently exploring the next steps for our work providing e-books alongside print books for children.
We are very much looking forward to a year of new partnerships and new opportunities to reach those who need books most and we hope that you will join us as we continue to work toward a world where everyone has access to books that will enrich, improve and change their lives.