Tag Archives: Open Doors Children’s Corners

Pupils at Korieama Primary School

2017 year in review: 20 countries in just twelve months

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 Lives strategy 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.


Boys reading
Two friends share a book at Battir Library in the West Bank


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.


Pacifique leads a reading activity
Taking part in a reading activity at Esperance Community Centre’s library in Rwanda


We also doubled the number of books provided to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, sent books to the Caribbean island of Antigua to support people displaced from Barbuda and Dominica by Hurricane Irma and began sending books to Liberia, Rwanda, Ghana and The Gambia.

Inspiring Readers, Book Havens and more

In March of this year our flagship Inspiring Readers programme won the prestigious 2017 London Book Fair International Excellence Award in the category of Educational Initiatives. It was a fantastic boost for the programme which aims to bring books into the classrooms of 250,000 African primary school pupils by 2020.


Moi Primary readers
Pupils enjoy reading in class at Inspiring Readers school Moi Primary in Kenya


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 Havens project


Young reader Jason shows us his favourite place to read in his new Book Haven


  • Giving secondary school pupils in Zambia new resources to study and succeed in their exams by creating Study Hubs


Secondary school pupils using their study hub in Zambia
Secondary school pupils using books in their Study Hub at Choma Library



The people we reached

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!

[read more]

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.


Loading a shipment
Loading a shipment at our warehouse in London


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.


Mansa library Zambia

The buzz around reading in Zambia

Our Head of Programmes, Samantha Thomas Chuula, recently travelled to Zambia. While there, she went to see how some of our newly-established Children’s Corners were getting on. Here, Sam tells us about her trip.

When I travelled to Zambia recently, it had been a year since I last stepped foot there and I was greeted with a customary warm Zambian welcome and in addition new roads, shopping malls and multi-story buildings with apartments, hotels and conference facilities “coming soon”. It was great to see development in these areas as it can offer fuel to the economy. I was keen to discover if Zambia’s focus on literacy was developing with the same speed and gusto!


Child reading at Kasama library, Zambia


Book Aid International’s Open Doors Children’s Corners programme aims to create spaces especially for children in public libraries in seven countries in sub-Saharan Africa. It has seen much success so far – through them, our partners are reviving the culture of reading for their youngest patrons. The Children’s Corners in Zambia are relatively new and I was keen to get out to the provinces with colleagues from our partner Zambia Library Service to see them in action. Our first trip was to visit Choma Library, a four hour drive south from Lusaka, Zambia’s capital. When I visited the library in 2014 it housed mostly old and out-of-date books. It had few adult users and even fewer children. So when I visited this time, I was thrilled to see the transformation!

In the Children’s Corner section of the library, warm yellow paint on three walls formed the backdrop to a forest scene with a sausage tree in one corner and long grass along the skirting. Shelves were filled with colourful and inviting children’s books. Child-sized furniture, carpet and floor cushions were arranged to form areas to sit back and read. Children sat at tables busy drawing and reading with friends. They told me about their favourite books and how their library had changed for the better. The librarians spoke of how their confidence in working with children had grown since they took part in specialist training. They feel able to help and guide children now that they understand the importance of reading from a young age and have some good reading promotion activities up their sleeves.

I am pleased to say it was a similar story at Chipata Library, a six hour journey to the east and Kasama Library, 10 hours north of Lusaka. The librarians I met once again spoke of the paradigm shift that they had experienced:

“We were not trained to manage children or understand their reading needs – but now we know that it’s their right to read books and we learnt how to build rapport with them.”

The librarians are able to deliver an improved service to the community now that they understand and can support children. Such librarians will form readers who will go on to value lifelong learning.


Kasama library
A busy morning at Kasama Children’s Corner


All the libraries I visited were experiencing an increased number of children visiting their new Children’s Corners. For me, the most exciting change was finding a real buzz around reading. The Ministry of General Education and its Provincial Education Officers (PEOs) are seeking to improve support at libraries to engage children in reading. The PEOs I met in Chipata and Choma talked enthusiastically about their local Children’s Corners. They were proud of the work of the Zambia Library Service and its partnership with Book Aid International. The Children’s Corners are attracting more children to the libraries and the wider community is also responding by bringing their children to the library more frequently. This level of Government support and community recognition is a great step forward.

The Zambia Library Service has led a change in attitudes in Zambia towards the importance of reading, especially for children. And that’s not all. The Zambia Library Service together with the Directorate of Standards and Curriculum are introducing classroom libraries in every grade one to four classroom in the country. I saw cupboards hung on walls, some already filled with books and others awaiting them. Teacher training to manage the classroom libraries has already been carried out in eight of the 10 provinces in Zambia. It’s a great initiative and we look forward to supporting it by providing brand new, relevant books for children to enjoy in their classrooms. I hope that this work, combined with our Children’s Corners in Zambia, will continue to grow a love of books and lifelong learning in the children of Zambia.

Mzuzu refrub

Mzuzu library – transformation in progress!

Recently we introduced you to Mzuzu library in northern Malawi. Mzuzu is one of five libraries in Malawi currently refurbishing a space which will become a Children’s Corner – a vibrant space in the library where children can read, play and learn. The team at Mzuzu library have already begun work on the transformation of their library.

Here’s a quick reminder of how the space looked before the project began.

Librarian Peter and his team started out by painting the walls of the space which will become the Children’s Corner. There are now brightly coloured walls, painted cupboards and shelving and murals on the walls.

Lastly, the team painted the exterior of the Children’s Corner so that the community can tell the Corner is there for them.

Peter, the Librarian at Mzuzu says:

The refurbishment is going on well and we are now done with painting and art work. Mzuzu Library will be now a conducive environment for reading for the children and the place is very attractive now. A lot of children have been coming to find out what the Children’s Corner is all about, the services we will be offering to them and they are very happy for the development.

Mzuzu Library Children’s Corner will officially open in September. Keep checking in for more updates!

Welcome to Mzuzu Library!

Follow the progress of our Open Doors Children’s Corners programme through the experience of one library in Malawi. We will be bringing you a series of updates about how Mzuzu library is creating a vibrant space for children to read, play and learn freely. 


Mzuzu, in Malawi’s Northern Region, is the third largest city in Malawi with a population of around 130,000 living within the city and around 1.7 million in its surrounding areas. Mzuzu has a large university, whose library Book Aid International has supported for many years including a special donation in 2016 to help the library restock after a devastating fire. The city is the commercial centre for agriculture in this region and the main crops are tea, rubber and coffee.


Mzuzu town


Mzuzu Library was founded 38 years ago and is close to the centre of the city. A branch of Malawi National Library Service (MNLS), it provides the city with books and information on a whole range of subjects as well as a quiet place to study. It’s the only public library in this area and receives around 420 visitors each day.

Although the library has a collection of children’s books, many of them are old and unappealing for young readers. They currently have no designated space for children and no child-sized furniture, mats or toys. When our Project Manager Judith visited the library in 2015 she said:

“It’s a large library with a good overall collection of books, but there is just a shelf of children’s books – most of which are old. There’s no space for the children to be themselves or to enjoy reading activities. Although the librarians are very keen to engage young readers, it’s not an especially appealing place for children at the moment.”

We have already helped MNLS to set up six brand new Children’s Corners in public libraries as part of our Open Doors programme. A combination of brand new books, brightly painted spaces and librarians who undertake training in running a great children’s library have seen these new spaces full of children. The new Children’s Corners have proved so popular that MNLS plan to include a Children’s Corner in each new library they establish.

After Judith’s visit we knew Mzuzu would be a perfect library to join our Open Doors programme in Malawi. Peter Chamgwera, the Librarian at Mzuzu expressed how keen he was to see this programme reach the children of Mzuzu:

“We need to promote a reading culture for our children. This will create a conducive environment for reading for our children and will help them with their studies. At the moment, they have to use the same reading area as the adults.”

Thanks to funding from the ICAP Charity Day in late 2015 we are now in the process of helping MNLS to establish a further five new Children’s Corners in libraries in Malawi – one of which will be at Mzuzu Library. 2,500 brand new books have already been sent from the UK and the librarians have all attended training on becoming inspiring children’s librarians. The librarians at Mzuzu are just about to begin the process of transforming a space in the library especially for children. Here’s how the area looks now:

Read the next instalment on the progress of Mzuzu Library’s Children’s Corner here.


Nketa Children's Corner

Opening Doors for children in Zimbabwe

Last week our Head of Communications, Jessica Faulkner, travelled to Zimbabwe to attend the launch of our first Open Doors Children’s Corner there. Here, she reports on her trip and the librarians that made this exciting new chapter a reality.

This was my first trip to Zimbabwe and I was really excited to witness the launch of our very first Open Doors Children’s Corner here. We have supported libraries in Zimbabwe with books for over 40 years but this is the first project we’ve run in the country. Together with our partners in Zimbabwe, we are opening five Children’s Corners in public libraries in Bulawayo and two in Harare – bright and colourful spaces where children can read play and learn freely. The first of these to open was Nketa library in a high-density suburb of Zimbabwe’s second city, Bulawayo. Nketa was also to be the location for the official launch of the programme in Zimbabwe.

Nketa before
Nketa library before the project began

The day before the launch I travelled to Nketa library to see how preparations were going and I was delighted to find the space busy with librarians and friends of the library who were applying the final touches to the new Children’s Corner. The space is bright and airy and has now been decorated with paintings from children’s stories, traditional African art and inspiring quotes to encourage reading. The shelves are packed with 2,500 brand new books from the UK as well as locally published books in local language Ndebele for which the project provided funding.  There are cushions and mats on the floor so that children feel comfortable when reading and they know the space is their own. The librarians have all attended training in engaging young readers and running a great children’s library. The training was facilitated by expert trainer Vivienne Moyo who attended our ‘train the trainers’ session in Kenya last year.

There are five libraries in Bulawayo which will soon be opening the doors of their new Children’s Corners. What was really encouraging was that all the librarians from these libraries were at Nketa, helping to get the space ready for the launch. And this week, all those librarians will be moving from library to library to get the remaining four Children’s Corners open as well – a real team effort!

On the day of the launch we gathered in a marquee outside the library. His Worship the Mayor of Bulawayo was in attendance, as was the Acting Town Clerk. We all made speeches and even read extracts from a children’s book to remind everyone of why we were there – because books really can change lives. There was poetry, dancing and drama and then we cut the ribbon of the Children’s Corner and declare it officially open. It was almost immediately filled with children who couldn’t wait to get their hands on the new books!

Over the next few days I managed to see the remaining four libraries in Bulawayo which will shortly be opening their Children’s Corners – Nkulumane, Tshabalala, Njube and Pumula. It was really exciting to see these Children’s Corners in different stages of development and to know that soon, they’ll be full of eager children who have access to a wide selection of appealing, age-appropriate books.

Just before I left Zimbabwe, I was pleased to pick up a signed agreement from the City of Harare, which means we can now begin work on a further two Children’s Corners in the capital Harare. These libraries are also in high-density suburbs, meaning they can reach a large number of children and provide a space which is truly theirs.

This is a really exciting chapter for children in Zimbabwe. The young readers I saw using the Children’s Corners in Nketa and Njube were so excited by the new books – it’s clear there’s a real hunger to read and these new spaces will make all the difference in enabling a generation to discover the joy of reading.

Children in Njube

We look forward to bringing updates of how the Children’s Corners in Zimbabwe are progressing. Our Open Doors Children’s Corners programme in Zimbabwe is supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.


Limbe Children's Corner

Cameroon’s Children’s Corners

Last month, our Project Manager Judith Henderson travelled to Cameroon to visit the 10 Cameroonian libraries involved in our Open Doors Children’s Corners programme. Together with our partner Education Information Services International (EISERVI), we are working to create child-friendly spaces for children in these libraries. Each Children’s Corner receives 2,500 brand new children’s books, a grant to purchase locally-published titles and a grant for refurbishment.

Refurbishing spaces, filling them with books and training librarians is a lot to do at once so we undertook this work in two phases, focussing on five libraries at a time. Judith visited the ‘phase one’ libraries last year before they were refurbished and was excited to return to see them now they are up and running:


It was amazing, all the libraries look so fresh and inviting. Many of the completed libraries I visited were full of children. Bamenda City Council library had over 100 children reading books, singing songs and joining in activities on the Saturday morning of my visit.

All the children I spoke to loved their new libraries and many were starting to visit on a regular basis, either with their class during the school day, or on their own after school.


Two of the ‘phase two’ libraries were also completed by the time Judith visited last month:

And that leaves just three Children’s Corners to be completed. Their librarians have already attended training and refurbishment is due to start later this month.


The librarians were very excited and can’t wait to put their training into practise.



Ekondo Titi Children's Corner before
Ekondo Titi Children’s Corner before


Mbengwi Children's Corner before
Mbengwi Children’s Corner before


Thiko Children's Corner before
Thiko Children’s Corner before


By August, these Children’s Corners should be fully refurbished and ready to welcome children from the local community. We look forward to sharing more pictures of these Children’s Corners when they are complete.