Tag Archives: Open Doors

Blantyre Children's Corner, Malawi

MEDIA RELEASE: £618,102 to open doors to reading for African children

In 2014 Book Aid International launched its most ambitious appeal to date to mark its 60th anniversary: Open Doors. The charity aimed to raise £600,000 to open 60 Children’s Corners in libraries across sub-Saharan Africa which would offer children inspiring, welcoming places to read. The charity is delighted to announce that the appeal has exceeded its target, with £618,102 raised. That’s enough to complete the 60 Children’s Corners the charity set out to open plus an additional two corners.

Book Aid International’s Children’s Corners programme creates child-friendly spaces which will inspire young readers and help them discover books and develop a life-long love of reading in communities where most families cannot afford to buy books and schools often have only a few old, tattered textbooks. In these circumstances, libraries offer the best opportunity for children to discover books and reading, yet many libraries lack a dedicated space for children or even sufficient children’s books. Librarians also often lack training in how to support young readers.

The charity provides each partner library with a collection of brand new children’s books, funds to refit a space in their library with child-sized furniture, murals and child-friendly book displays, training for librarians in how to support children and a grant to purchase locally published books. The Open Doors appeal is funding 62 Children’s Corners in seven countries: Cameroon, Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The charity’s Chief Executive, Alison Tweed, expressed her gratitude to the donors who gave to the Open Doors appeal:

“Three years ago Open Doors seemed like a huge mountain to climb. We were determined to achieve our goals, but the appeal target of £600,000 was more than we had ever tried to raise for a single project. Exceeding the target was a proud moment for our entire team. We would like to thank the many donors who gave so generously to Open Doors. We are also very grateful to our partners in the UK book trade who gave the brand new books which are at the heart of every Children’s Corner.”

Book Aid International charity extends a particularly warm thank you to players of People’s Postcode Lottery for their funding of five Open Doors Children’s Corners in Malawi and five in Zimbabwe.

While the Open Doors appeal may have drawn to a close, the charity will continue to reach more young readers. Book Aid International is already hard at work creating more Children’s Corners and the next are planned for Sierra Leone. The country is still recovering from the devastating Ebola crisis which killed almost 4,000 people and closed schools for a full year. The new Children’s Corners will provide young readers with new opportunities to discover the joy of reading.

To find out more or be a part of the future of Children’s Corners, please visit www.bookaid.org




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

e: jenny.hayes@bookaid.org

t: 020 7326 5801


About Book Aid International

Book Aid International is the UK’s leading international book donation and library development charity. Every year, the charity ships around one million books to thousands of libraries in communities where people have very few opportunities to access books.

Book Aid International works with an extensive network of libraries, schools, hospitals, NGOs and other partners to ensure that the books it sends reach those who are most in need. In addition, it also run library development projects which build the capacity of librarians to support readers and communities.

The charity only sends books at the request of its library partners. These books are carefully selected by our UK team led by professional librarians to ensure that they the needs of local communities.

All of the books sent by Book Aid International are donated by the UK book trade so they are all new.

Visit www.bookaid.org for more information or join the conversation on twitter: @book_aid


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 30% goes directly to charities and players have raised £197.5 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-102511-013 and Number: 000-000829-R-102513-012. 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 Postcode Sport Trust/CLIC Sargent
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.


Children reading

Getting started with Open Doors in Zimbabwe

Together with our partners in Zimbabwe, we are currently working to establish five new Children’s Corners in public libraries as part of our Open Doors programme. Recently our Head of Programmes travelled to Zimbabwe to visit the libraries and conduct our baseline assessments. Here’s Samantha’s account of her trip.

The purpose of the trip was to conduct baseline surveys of the selected libraries which will be included in the Zimbabwe phase of our Open Doors Children’s Corners programme. The programme aims to engage children in reading by providing child-friendly spaces in public libraries where they can read, play and learn. Doing baselines surveys is really a way of measuring activities in the library now so that when we’ve completed the project we’ll be able to tell what impact the new Children’s Corners are having.

I visited each site and conducted a questionnaire gathering details about the library – how it operates currently, how the children use it and the current skills of the librarians. It was also a great opportunity to share the concept of the Open Doors programme with the librarians, get them excited about the project and answer their questions. I also take photos of the library spaces so we can monitor the progress of the project against this starting point.

The libraries I visited were generally large, airy, purpose-built buildings, largely built in the 1960s and all in need of upgrading. While they all had designated spaces for children, a lack of funding has meant that the spaces are all in need of some TLC. The furniture is old and not always suitable for children and many of the libraries have an outdated collection of books for children. Unfortunately when I visited, there were not many children using the spaces – exactly what we hope to fix through the Open Doors programme.

Although many of the librarians I met are very passionate about engaging children in reading, very few of them have had training in working with children and encouraging them to read. The library spaces are crying out for the energy and enthusiasm that children can bring and there was a real desire in the librarians to transform their spaces and improve their own skills so they can help to inspire the next generation of readers in Zimbabwe.

Our Open Doors programme offers the library network in Zimbabwe an opportunity to focus on their young users. With training for the librarians, carefully selected, brand new children’s book donations as well as a chance to spruce up the spaces with a refurbishment grant – these libraries will be transformed after this intervention! We hope to see a real revival in children’s interest in reading and we hope that the new spaces, combined with brand new books and librarian training will act as a powerful and winning combination to strengthen the reading culture there.

The most memorable experience was seeing a girl writing in the library. When I asked her what she was doing, she told me she was copying the story from the library book because she could not afford membership which would have allowed her to borrow it. This was the best way to have her own copy of the books, which she could read at home and read to and with her siblings. I was moved by her determination to overcome this common financial obstacle – such was her love of reading. It’s children like this who will really benefit from the new Children’s Corners. In a beautifully decorated, child-friendly space with reading activities to participate in and lots of new and exciting children’s books, she will be able to inspire her siblings and grow their love of reading too.


The training has already taken place for the librarians from the five libraries and now the next stage is the refurbishment. Once the spaces are bright, vibrant and child-friendly, they can be filled with 2,500 brand new books from the UK (these have already been shipped) as well as locally published books. It feels like a really exciting time for libraries in Zimbabwe and we look forward to bringing you updates on these Children’s Corners throughout the year.

This project in Zimbabwe is generously supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

You can find out more about our Open Doors programme here and watch a short film about Children’s Corners in Malawi here