Tag Archives: Summer appeal

Immersed in reading

Books filling young minds in lockdown

Jane is Head Teacher at Simotwo Primary School in remote, rural Kenya. Her school is currently closed because of Covid-19 and her pupils are at home.

If it weren’t for the books you have helped to send to her school, her pupils would have very little to read or to help them continue learning while they are out of school.

Here, Jane tells us more:


“[The school closing] has been a very great loss. This community is remote. The nearby town is about 15km. So the place where the children see new things is only in school – nowhere else, unless they travel.

And now the children are just at home, helping their parents who are farmers.

Many pupils are now helping their parents in the fields

When this pandemic broke we were unprepared. It was the beginning of the school year and we had planned for so many good things and the children were busy in the libraries in town.

Rumuruti library
Before lockdown, pupils were busy reading in the local library and at school

But everything stopped and we hadn’t prepared the children unlike when they go on their holidays.

So immediately when the school was closed, I gave a lot of books for the children to read at home. A great number of books are from Book Aid International.

I gave a lot of books for the children to read at home. A great number of books are from Book Aid International.

And we are still operating the school library but the children cannot come all of them together, because of the social distancing. They come bit by bit and they go home with a new book.

Taking a book home
Children can still visit the school library to choose a new book to read at home

So the good thing is that we know that there are a lot of children in homes who are reading those books. Not only the child who has picked the books, but even their brothers and sisters from other schools who are at home.

If they didn’t have a book at home, when it comes to the examination or any other assessment, you find that they don’t have the knowledge.

But one of the challenges is that because most of our parents are not educated, they are not able to assist the children properly now that they are at home. Actually, [the parents] are very much worried. They have seen the importance of the school and they rely on the teachers but the teachers are not there anymore.

Now the books are the only ones with the children. The teachers are not there, the assessments are not there, but the books are with the children at home.

And the good thing is that the children can read the books anywhere.

Sometimes you see them travelling and they each have a book in their pocket. When they go to graze the animals, they have a book. When they are eating at home, under the tree, they have a book. It is a good sign.

Children are reading the books they borrow wherever they go

This means when they come back to school, they will not be empty because they have been keeping their minds busy with the books.

When they start doing their school work, it will be nice for the children because they will know it is something they have been doing at home – having books at home now will make them be used to reading and learning.

So they will be a bit brave when they come back to school and they will not be empty.”


*The photos used in this blog were taken before lockdown.

Donkey library

Getting books to rural communities

We are proud to support libraries in a range of environments across sub-Saharan Africa, including some that are so remote that they are inaccessible by motor vehicles.

Dr Obadiah Moyo, founder of the Rural Libraries & Resources Development Programme (RLRDP), shares how his organisation is transporting brand new books, donated by Book Aid International, to some of Zimbabwe’s most remote communities using donkey libraries.


The organisation I founded (RLRDP) establishes and supports libraries in rural communities here in Zimbabwe, many of which experience extreme poverty. Work is in short supply and those who do work are often farm workers or miners, barely earning enough money to keep their families fed.

“We believe that to pull these rural communities out of poverty we need to surround children with books and knowledge, and give them the tools they need to improve their lives.”

Reaching these communities can be challenging – some we reach by truck, some by bicycle and some, the most rural, by donkey. Donkeys are used in Zimbabwe in many ways, from getting children to school to fetching water, and many years ago I asked myself ‘why can’t we use them to get books into schools’?


Queen's Mine Primary


In 1995 I piloted the first donkey-drawn mobile cart library and I’m proud that today we have 15 carts delivering books to rural schools. Each cart can carry up to 1,200 books and the majority of these are provided by Book Aid International.

The donkeys are donated by members of the community, and villagers actually compete to ensure their donkeys are used because they know they are advancing education within their local community, and this brings prestige.

The evidence of this advancement is clear for all to see. In one school we support, Inyathi Secondary School, a strong reading culture has developed among students and O-Level pass rates have soared, from just 6% in 2009 to 75% last year! Children who use the library every day are now dreaming of their future careers and opportunities.


Amanda at Inyathi


When the cart is approaching a school, the excitement from the children is wonderful to see as they rush out to greet it. But it isn’t simply a case of unloading the cart and moving on. The cart stays for the whole day; the children explore the books, sharing what they’ve read, and local storytellers from the community come to bring stories to life. It really is a day to spread the concept of reading and to develop the reading culture we are all working towards.

The books that Book Aid International send are far ranging – from phonics books to help children learn to read, to educational books which help them pass their exams and storybooks to inspire a lifelong love of reading – but what they all have in common is that they can help to improve the lives of the children living in Zimbabwe’s rural communities.


Emhlangi Primary School


Find out more about our work in Zimbabwe and the mobile libraries we support below.