Tag Archives: school

The difference a book can make

Violet Lenger-Fofanah lives in Sierra Leone and runs a small charity that supports people living in poverty. She told us how the pandemic has affected the children she works with and why she believes books can change lives.

“In my role, I have seen so many children transform their futures through reading. More than half of families here face a daily struggle to make ends meet, and many schools have nowhere near enough teachers or even the most basic resources.

Violet supports the children in the local school with their reading

But it is my passion to make sure children get a good education – and by partnering with Book Aid International I can send books to schools and help create libraries too. Sometimes a single book is all it takes to fire a child’s imagination. You see their eyes light up. Instead of needing to share a book with other children, they can lose themselves in the pages, reading at the pace that’s right for them.

Sometimes a single book is all it takes to fire a child’s imagination.

But as the coronavirus pandemic forced schools here in Sierra Leone to close for nine long months, huge numbers of children had the magic of books stolen away from them. With their lessons stopped, children who dreamed of becoming the first nurse or doctor or lawyer in their families suddenly had to put those dreams on hold. We can’t let all that potential be lost, we need more books to help young people dream again.

My favourite thing is seeing children happy, able to go to school and progressing with their schoolwork. Education takes you where you’ve never been. It creates dreams then turns those dreams into reality. It can change the future not only of a single child but of whole communities, even whole countries. Books can help them decide who they want to be and gain the knowledge they need to follow their dreams. That’s how much difference a book can make.”

School pupils

Impacting education in rural Malawi

For many of Sister Clara’s pupils at St Martin’s Community Day Secondary School in rural Malawi, being in secondary school is a big deal. Many come from families of subsistence farmers who cannot afford secondary school fees.  So to be in secondary school, their family may have sold a valuable asset such as a cart or animal or they have won a scholarship through our partner Gumbi Education Fund. Either way, education presents these children with a rare opportunity to make a brighter future for themselves and their families.

A pupil at St Martin’s Day Secondary School

Pupils will soon be using books you have helped to send to make the very most of their education: the Gumbi Education Fund is currently building a library for the school and our brand new books will fill the shelves when it opens.

Sister Clara teaches English at St Martin’s and will be one of the teachers looking after the library. We talked to her to find out how she thinks the books will impact her pupils’ education.

Clara teacher
Sister Clara

How do you think these new books will affect the school?

English books assist learners to get more knowledge. English is a key subject in our country, it’s very important as it’s the language of instruction in schools. So if you have more books, especially English books, they really assist in understanding that key subject and understand other subjects better. Without English nobody could understand the other subjects.

You also took part in some librarian training – tell us about that.

The training was interesting. We did practicals – how to arrange the books, how to take care of them, how to display them, how to register them and how to help learners find the books they are looking for. We have really gained a lot and are able to assist our learners now.

Sister Clara teaching
Sister Clara teaching

How did you feel when the books for your new school library first arrived?

I was really, really, really happy. I have already used one of the books which you have sent when I was teaching spellings. There is some information which is very important for the learners. So when I was teaching how to write some of the words, I used the book.

When the library is up and running, how do you intend on using the books?

We will encourage the learners to use books in the library, for the books to be safe. But maybe in the week, they can borrow them and we can give them a specific time to bring the books back after they have used them.

What is it like for you as a teacher to have new books?

The books have information on the topics we are teaching and there are so many books. There is very good information in those books. These new books will add more knowledge to what the learners have already.


Flying away with books in the West Bank

17 year old Dalia grew up in the city of Ramallah. Ramallah is located in the West Bank, which is part of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).

Like many people living in OPT, her movements are restricted and life can be unpredictable. She attends St Joseph Elementary School in Ramallah where she finds solace in books and her hope for the future of her country in education.


I live in Ramallah in the West Bank. It’s a really wonderful city. People here have a lot of hospitality. They like to talk to everyone, they help each other. You never feel lonely because you always have people around you, but at the same time we have a lot of challenges, and some days you’re just depressed.

We sometimes cannot go places because there are checkpoints on the roads. My grandfather’s home is in Jerusalem so we have problems visiting because of the check point. We need permission to visit my grandfather and my aunts and cousins.

Once, when I was younger and we had just moved into our home, soldiers came into our home in the middle of the night and searched the house. We children were sleeping and my mum was really scared because they had guns. They can come at any time, so you don’t feel safe. This feeling, it affects everyone. If it’s not you personally, it’s your neighbours, your friends, everyone.

When I feel happy or sad, you’ll find me here in the school library digging through the books. I feel really peaceful here because you’re out of reality. If you have any problems, you’re not thinking of them, you’re thinking of the book you’re reading – the stories, the adventures that are happening in the book. It takes you to another place. It’s like you’re flying away.

My favourite books are crime stories by Agatha Christie. In one book, she mentioned Palestine. I was like ‘oh my goodness, Palestine was a really interesting place!’

I also really like reading about Palestinian people – their experiences, their lives and how Palestine used to be. It used to be the place for culture. But now it is not that way. As young Palestinians, we should change that through our education, through reading books. So that’s what I really encourage other young people to do.

Through education, we can things here so there is no more war and killing. Despite the suffering we live in, we can achieve things in life, change things and change our history.


The hope that Dalia finds in books is a poignant reminder of how value books are even for those facing conflict and political uncertainty. We are proud to support Dalia’s school and many other schools across the Occupied Palestinian Territories and other countries affected by conflict and crisis, such as Sierra Leone.

We hope to reach out to more readers like Dalia who face enormous challenges when they seek to access books over the next four years. Find out more or be a part of our work using the links below.


Inspiring Readers teachers training

Inspiring librarians

Sarah Ogembo is 27 and is already Head of Kenya National Library Service (knls) Kisii branch library in Kenya. Her library is part of our Inspiring Readers thanks to funds from Players of People’s Postcode Lottery. 

Our school library programme and our Education Project Officer Ashleigh met Sarah while facilitating the librarian training as part of the programme. Ashleigh also witnessed Sarah putting her new skills into practice, training teachers and head teachers from local primary schools in Kisii. Ashleigh caught up with Sarah to find out how she got to where she is today.


Sarah Ogembo

Who is Sarah Ogembo?

I am a 27 year old lady that loves her job! The main things that typify me are that I am very passionate about children, I cannot stand injustice and I always try to be a very happy person. Professionally speaking, I would classify myself as an information provider. I chose this career path because I think that each and every person should have access to information to make positive changes to society – and these changes are cultural, social, economic and political. I believe that the role of libraries is to change the world one person at a time through access to information through books.


Sarah in action

How did you get to where you are today?

When I was growing up, my mother worked at the Ministry of Land. The community library was opposite my mother’s ministry. We went there when my mum went to work and we stayed all day during the holidays until she came to collect us. I loved reading the books – I would read the whole shelf from left to right. I was lucky that my secondary school had a very good library with a lovely young librarian who was very good at her job.

When I got to university I really knew what I wanted to do. I studied library and information science and I picked this course because it was relevant to my strengths and passions. I attended the University of Kenyatta and I was there for four years. They had a very good library which I used all the time. Once I graduated and started looking for a job, I applied to work at knls and once I was successful, I was sent to Kisii straight away.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

The daily interaction with lots of different people, especially the children. Seeing the ones that come in to the library to do an assignment but can’t afford to buy
the course book, they come in and use it in the library. This is one of my favourite things about this job.


Sarah training

Tell us about your work with Book Aid International

Since working at Kisii, I was invited into the partnerships that knls have with other organisations. I know that as an organisation we cannot do everything, so it is useful to work with other stakeholders. With Book Aid International in particular, I have worked on the Inspiring Readers programme as Kisii library is one of the hub libraries in the first ever tranche of the programme. The local schools involved have now become institutional members and the children are really enjoying their new books.

The relationship between our library and the teachers and head-teachers from the local schools have been strengthened and I think the schools will really benefit from the programme. My role within this programme is to act as a link between the schools and Kisii library. We are now monitoring what is happening and we are guiding and training the teachers to ensure that the children get the most out of their new resources.

How do you see the role that libraries can play in the development of Kenyan society?

There has been a big change in libraries from when I was a kid to now in terms of the advancement of technology. The primary role of the library might not change – every person should have access to resources to make sure their literacy levels are increased. But the resources and how we access them will change in the future. Libraries have a big role to play in helping people adapt to future societies, but with the same age old common goal.


Find out more about Inspiring Readers below.