Tag Archives: school libraries

Reading in school

Books enriching learning in Ghanaian schools

As the holidays come to a close, children across the world are returning to school. For too many of them, there will be no books in school and learning will be a struggle. But thanks to supporters like you, that won’t be the case for pupils at 75 schools in Ghana: their schools will be filled with brand new children’s books.

We caught up with Linda, the Early Years Project Coordinator at our partner AfriKids, to find out more about the difference the books you help to send are making for these children.


Reading time at Hariya Islamic Primary School


AfriKids works in communities in the three northern regions of Ghana. In these rural communities more than half of families live in poverty. Our work is centred on three key areas; education, child protection and health.

With regards to education, the challenges these communities face include schools being so far away that it is difficult for young children to commute to school alone, schools having an inadequate number of age-appropriate children’s books and a shortage of teachers. So our work in education is geared towards ensuring vulnerable children in these communities are able to access and complete quality education.

As part of this, we are using books donated by Book Aid International to support our early years project in 72 schools in the Sisaala East, Sisaala West and Zebilla districts to improve pupils’ reading skills.

The books have enabled us to set up mini libraries in 45 of these schools. Pupils can now borrow books to read. Before, these schools didn’t have reading books.

The best you could get was a few text books which had to be shared by several pupils and in some cases only the teacher had a text book. Now, children who previously had no access to books can now practise reading and discover enriching stories.

The books donated by Book Aid International have enhanced teaching and learning in the schools.

Some of the books are essential for teachers to deliver lessons and without them it would be difficult for them to teach effectively.


Reading aloud
A pupil at Lamboya Model Primary School reads aloud to her fellow Reading Club members


These mini libraries are helping to improve the reading skills of the pupils – their performance has improved as a result of reading more. Also, activities like reading competitions in the schools increased pupils’ interest in reading and learning. They are also now reading these books at home and this prevents them from engaging in dangerous activities.

Without the books from Book Aid International, thousands of pupils wouldn’t have access to story books and the chance to enhance their reading skills.

Our hope is that the children have access to education and health for a good future. Education holds the key to development to break the cycle of poverty.


Book Aid International and AfriKids would like to extend a special thank you to players of People’s Postcode Lottery for their continued support and making this partnership possible.

Photos © AfriKids


Inspiring Readers is underway!

Our Inspiring Readers programme aims to improve reading opportunities for primary school children by providing Book Box Libraries for use in the classroom. As well as over 1,000 brand new books for each school, two teachers also attend training with their local library to help them run a successful school library.

 The programme works through ‘hub libraries’, which have Children’s Corners, reaching out to local schools to help them run their libraries effectively. To do this, we train the hub librarians who in turn train teachers from local schools.

 Ashleigh, our Education Project Officer recently travelled to Kenya to oversee and help facilitate two training workshops, one for librarians and another for teachers. We caught up with her to find out about the training and why it is so important.

You went to Kenya to oversee and facilitate two workshops for our new Inspiring Readers programme. Who were these workshops for?

The first workshop was for 12 hub librarians to introduce the programme and to help them run training for teachers. The librarians are really important to the programme as they’re the ones who train the teachers and support the schools throughout.

The workshop lasted for three days and included modules on basic library management, using books in the classroom, monitoring and evaluation, and facilitation skills. We also used the time to plan the second workshop in which the librarians would share what they had learned with the teachers and head-teachers from their local primary schools.

The second workshop was in the Kisii branch library in south west Kenya. This one was for teachers and was facilitated by two librarians from Kisii who had attended the hub librarian training. The librarians took the teachers through the Inspiring Readers programme and facilitated sessions on managing the Book Box Libraries, using books in lessons and monitoring and evaluation. At the end of the training the teachers were given the books for their new Book Box Libraries – needless to say they were very excited!

What changes did you see in the librarians as a result of the training?

The librarians really understood the importance of their role and were enthused about helping the teachers get the best from their libraries. Their confidence in their ability to run the teacher training sessions grew throughout the workshop and they seemed to feel a sense of pride and excitement at receiving the books and running the programme. They know this programme will make a huge difference for children in their communities and they are excited to take part.

Did you learn anything from this workshop that you’d like to implement in the librarian workshops for other countries involved in the Inspiring Readers programme?

We learned that the best way to encourage active learning in training is to ensure that the answers to questions come from the floor as much as possible. The librarians we are working with are experts in their fields so our job is to help them to share that knowledge. We found role play really effective in helping the librarians work through challenges so we’ll be using more of that in our future training sessions.

How did the teacher training which the Kisii librarians led go?

The teacher training was well-attended, with some schools bringing an extra teacher as they were keen to have as many teachers attend as possible. The sessions were fun and engaging, and the librarians, despite only having a few days to practise, were able to deliver an effective training session for the teachers.

The teachers learned a lot from the librarians about library management, and there were many discussions about the best ways to plan, set up, manage and run a school library.

The focus on how to promote reading in the school is something that the teachers were very comfortable with, and being able to share knowledge and expertise was a highly effective exercise.

How will we monitor the programme?

We will be doing a mid-term evaluation in six months’ time where we will collect the data that the teachers and the librarians have gathered as well as holding interviews with the teachers, head-teachers and pupils. The librarians will be popping in to the schools to see how they are doing and offer support every couple of months. The monitoring aspect of the programme is really important because we want to ensure that the books are used to their full potential. By monitoring progress frequently we can continue to tweak the programme to ensure it has the greatest possible impact.

How many schools in total will benefit from the Inspiring Readers programme?

In Kenya there will be 25 schools now and another 25 later in the year. But we hope the whole programme will see 310 schools benefiting – that’s a total of 930 teachers attending training!

What happens after this phase in Kenya?

The next country will be Cameroon, with five hub libraries working with 25 schools. We hope to start that phase of the programme later in 2016.

This phase of the Inspiring Readers programme has been supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery. 


Dedame school

Literacy: a life-changing chance for children in Zambia

Our partner Zambia Open Community Schools (ZOCS) provides quality schooling and education for children  who cannot attend government schools. Often, children in Zambia miss out on their opportunity to attend government school, either because the nearest school is too far away or because their families cannot afford school uniforms or exercise books. We partner with them in this work by donating brand new books to ensure community schools have libraries that are well stocked with new and relevant books. Cleo Muma, Programme and Advocacy Manager at ZOCS tells us how the books are used in the schools and the difference they make to the students.

Kububa Community School is located in Mayukwayukwa Refugee Camp in Kaoma District in the Western Province of Zambia. The school has a total of 544 learners, both boys and girls. The school has 12 untrained Community School teachers, four classrooms and currently caters for Early Childhood Education through to grade 7.

In Zambia, English is taken as a subject in early grades and young children are taught in their local language, which in this area is Lozi. From Grade 5 onwards though, English becomes the language of instruction in almost all subjects so it’s important that learners are slowly introduced to English during their education up to this point. Unless this happens, the transition to English as the language of instruction can be very challenging and it’s a time when many children drop out of school.

Until recently, Kububa Community School lacked the appropriate learning materials to introduce children in early grades to English and as a result learners had little understanding of English when they had to make the full transition in Grade 5.

In 2015, Kububa Community School’s dream of improving their literacy levels came to reality when Zambia Open Community Schools (ZOCS) visited the school and distributed books from Book Aid International. The books are colourful, simple phonics books, designed to help young readers learn the basics of spelling and building words in English. By using these simple books, children were able to identify, sound out, read and write simple words in English after just a term in school.

ZOCS - children reading

“Phonics provides the key that unlocks the mystery of reading and education is the greatest equaliser in life” says Dorcus, who is one of the children at Kububa Community School.

Teachers are now encouraging children to apply themselves to their reading. They give prizes such as sweets or even applause from the rest of the class for children who are making the most effort to improve in their reading.

ZOCS - books handed out

“Children need to have a good grasp of phonics in order to learn to read and write. They need to know their letter sounds and how to segment and blend. Phonics teaching has proved to be easier than the schemes we were using before. We thank Book Aid International and ZOCS who have deliberately chosen to complement Government efforts of improving literacy levels in all communities.” Mr. Chikwekwe, Refugee Camp Co-ordinator.

Kububa Community School students are now some of the most confident, vibrant and enthusiastic children in the district and their literacy rates have improved greatly.

We are proud to be able to support ZOCS in their important work to bring education to vulnerable children in Zambia. Last year we sent 28,505 new books to ZOCS for use in schools. You can find out more about our work with ZOCS in this short film or by reading Cleo’s story of her work with the organisation.  


Book Aid International returns to supporting Sierra Leone

We are delighted to announce that in 2016 we will once again begin supporting Sierra Leone’s libraries with brand new, carefully selected books. Our Director Alison Tweed reports on setting up new relationships and partnerships in Sierra Leone to help the country rebuild after the impact of the Ebola crisis. 

“I guess what I’d like to say is that people in Sierra Leone …want to send their kids to school; they want to live in peace; they want to have their basic rights of life just like everyone else. I think we all owe an obligation to support people who want to do that.” Ishmael Beah (author of A long way gone: memoirs of a boy soldier)

In December 2015 and in March 2016 I made two visits to Sierra Leone, to evaluate the state of libraries and of book availability in the country and see whether Book Aid International could once again play a part in supporting  public libraries, schools and higher education institutions. We have not worked in Sierra Leone since 2007, when the UK government ceased funding the organisation, which led to a strategic decision to focus on our work in East Africa.

Sierra Leone is emerging from the recent widely-reported and devastating Ebola crisis which resulted in nearly 4,000 deaths in 2014 and 2015 and resulting major disruptions in education (schools were closed for an entire academic year), commerce and many of the traditional ways of life, and creating many thousands of orphans and out-of-school children.


Given this I was delighted, on my arrival in Freetown, to find a flourishing national library service, managed by the Sierra Leone Library Board (SLLB) with 20 branches across the country.

Many of these libraries are new and they  all have lending, reference and even basic children’s sections. Much of the collection is old but well looked-after and clearly well-used. Some have computer centres which are internet-connected, some have computers but no internet.

Membership of all the libraries outside Freetown is free and books (mainly novels) can be borrowed from the lending library. SLLB has also done much to promote the service in imaginative ways: for example, all libraries have motorbikes on which the librarians visit local schools, community groups and in some cases even housebound individual users!

However, there is still much to be done to encourage wider use of libraries, especially by children. Having a supply of well-targeted, relevant and brand-new books from Book Aid International would certainly go some way to support the work SLLB is doing and I agreed we would support the Library Board with an initial donation of around 30,000 books in 2016.

“I grew up in Sierra Leone, in a small village where as a boy my imagination was sparked by the oral tradition of storytelling. At a very young age I learned the importance of telling stories – I saw that stories are the most potent way of seeing anything we encounter in our lives, and how we can deal with living.”
Ishmael Beah (author of A long way gone: memoirs of a boy soldier)

While in Freetown I also visited the University of Sierra Leone. Fourah Bay College, one of the three faculties, was the first institution of its kind in West Africa, established in 1827 as an Anglican missionary school and educating many prominent West Africans. It is now a constituent college of the university and has over 6,000 students. Sadly the library building, with its magnificent situation overlooking the city, has suffered hugely from lack of maintenance and a persistently leaky roof. I therefore agreed with the VC, Professor Thompson, that the university texts we would donate should be housed temporarily in the central public library for the students to access until such time as the college library was renovated.

Schools in Sierra Leone have been particularly hard hit by the impact of the Ebola crisis, with most closing for an entire year to limit infection within communities. This of course has a huge effect on children’s education as well as affecting their social interactions. However a large number of NGOs are running programmes to help children back to school, support girls in their quest for an education or provide basic teaching for the most deprived communities.

One such community-based organisation, Save the Needy, is working in 10 schools in Freetown and the country’s second city, Bo, and I visited some of these schools accompanied by the founder Mrs Violet Lenger Forfanah. The schools, situated mainly in Goderich district, have few, if any, resources; children lack not only textbooks but also reading books, exercise books and even pencils. Save the Needy is reaching out to these schools and raising funds for support and we agreed to work with them to provide collections of books and reading materials for their schools programme. It was clear that a donation of brand new, bright, and appealing books would make a real difference in these classrooms.

Freetown school
One of the schools supported by Save the Needy in Freetown

What was very clear to me on my visit, aside from the irrepressible optimism of most Sierra Leoneans that the future would be better, was the vital importance of education and access to information in rebuilding the country for the long term. If we at Book Aid International can support the librarians who are working in schools, universities and public libraries to make books available to their communities we will be proud that we are able to play a small role in these steps towards a better future.

As the librarian at Makeni City Library declared proudly: ‘We are bringing the libraries to the people, all over the country!’ And so they are.


Thika school

Inspiring Readers

Watch our short film to find out more about our Inspiring Readers programme, which will bring Book Box Libraries to a quarter of a million African primary school children.