Tag Archives: Tanzania

Zanzibar ILD

Speaking up for reading

In September, our partners in fifteen African countries held celebrations to mark International Literacy Day.

Many used it as an opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of literacy and reading, introduce more members of the local community to the library and also to highlight literacy and multilingualism – the theme of this year’s International Literacy Day.

Our partners flew the flag for literacy in all manner of locations from national libraries in bustling capital cities to small community libraries in rural areas.

And everyone was invited – and attended – from Government ministers, national TV stations, newspaper journalists to mayors, chiefs, farmers, local NGOs, publishers, authors, and of course teacher, pupils and their parents.

Books you helped to send were used as prizes for participating schools, providing 100s of new, inspiring children’s books for them to add to their library collections.

Here, our partners tell us more about how they marked the day – and the impact it has had in their communities:


Cameroon ILD participants


“EISERVI library is located in Yaounde, the political capital of Cameroon. The city today is made of all ethnic groups in Cameroon and many people work as civil servants. Ongoing conflict means that IDPs are flocking to the city and school class sizes are swelling meaning that children have to share books often one between ten.

The library serves the community of Yaounde and Cameroon in general with books to meet the needs and aspirations of children and adults, academics and entrepreneurs.

Our International Literacy Day celebrations included speeches, a spelling bee, a tour of the library, poem presentations, cultural dances and a fashion parade. The activities showcased the different languages in Cameroon and students also held a debate on ‘can literacy be acquired through multilingualism?’

The children were so happy to see and access a large variety of books in a well organised library.”

I have discovered as a teacher that I still have a lot to do with my pupils concerning reading and other literacy activities. This event is a spring board for me.

– Mr Effa Joseph, Head Teacher, Government Bilingual Primary School.

“Some of the children who attended the event now come to the library after school. You can see the excitement in them as they read. Some even ask for books to read at home with their siblings.”


ETHIOPIA  – Cheffe Donsa Community Library

CODE Ethiopia‘s Cheffe Donsa Community Library supports a suburban community living about 57km outside Addis Ababa. While it is suburban, it needs further support and the community’s participation in the library is encouraging.

Our celebrations included poem presentations, reading testimonies by library users and contests between students.”

Our library set our community free from darkness. It is our university.

– An elderly participant.

GHANA  – Eastern Regional Library

Ghana Library Authority‘s celebrations were held at our Eastern Regional Library in the city of Koforidua.

Students recited poetry, performed traditional adowa dances and recited books they have read. We also held a six-book challenge in the run up in which students read six books and had to summarise each. We awarded participating students at the ceremony.”

It’s been barely a week but more kids are visiting our library after the event and now parents are making it mandatory that they come to the library even if they cannot read with them at home.

– Koforidua Library

KENYA – knls Lusumu Community Library

“This year’s celebrations were held at knls Lusumu branch library in Kakamega County, Western Kenya. The library is situated in a village where people are predominantly crop farmers and some also rear animals. There is a lot of poverty here and parents are determined to educate their children. The library was opened in 2009 to support parents in this effort – and provide a resource centre for the whole community.

There were songs, a drama, speeches based on literacy celebration. The Kakamega County Governor HE Prof Philip Kutima urged Members of Parliament within the region to consider establishing libraries within their constituencies.”

Books were given to participating schools for their libraries and many of them acknowledged that they had very few supplementary reading books in their schools.

“Following the event we have had an increase in visits, more enquiries about our services, especially from schools who want to know how they can be involved in future library events and registering as institutional members.”



Grace Rwanda‘s celebrations were held at both the Nyamagabe Youth Centre Library in Nyamagabe and Vision Jeunesse Nouvelle Library in Rubavu. Residents in Nyamagabe live on low income and are mostly farmers. The literacy rate is still moderate.”

“The ceremonies started with traditional dance to songs on the theme of reading and writing in different languages. There were speeches read aloud in Kinyarwanda, French and English. There were also spelling bees, reading aloud, debates and storytelling activities. We also had a display of donated books.

The event really helped promote the libraries and books to the wider communities.”

We were seeking books and we had to look elsewhere but now we have this library it will help us so much.

– Kagame Gad, Primary 6 student.

SIERRA LEONE – Sierra Leone Library Board HQ

“Sierra Leone Library Board’s Headquarters Library in Freetown is in a community dominated by workers, students and a few business people. The library accommodates users from all walks of life from toddlers to elderly people.

Our International Literacy Day activities included a story competition in local languages, a melodrama set to local songs and a demonstration of our French lessons for children. There was also a short skit entitled Had I Known about the importance of having reading and writing skills in your local language because you never know when you will need it. All competitions were also done in the local dialect.”

The celebration of this day each year has helped to raise awareness about reading.

SOMALILAND – Silanyo National Library


Somaliland ILD


“The Silanyo National Library is in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland. It’s the nation’s first national library and serves school pupils, teachers, university students and other members of the public.

Our International Literacy Day celebrations included a quiz for the school children covering science, geography and history in which they had to answer the questions in either Somali, Arabic or English.”

As a result of the celebrations, school teachers that attended have since decided to set a specific time for reading during their school hours.

TANZANIA – Tanga Regional Library

“Tanga Regional Library is a public library run by the Tanzania Library Services Board. The Tanga region is a coastal community where inhabitants mostly engage in fishing, crop cultivation and small-scale business. There is also an urban community of professionals and students.

Our International Literacy Day activities included a library tour, a spelling competition, a reading competition, and cultural entertainment. We also invited all audience members to select a book and read it for pleasure.

The day after the event, parents and teachers brought their children to the library to register for the book club and also to join as members.”

This is the most interesting educational programme I ever expected a local library could organise.

– Mrs Miriam Magambo, parent.

While reading is basic to learning it is also basic to survival. Lack of reading is disasterous because reading is a most efficient way of acquiring knowledge and a source of achieving sound development of our minds … A public library is a place designed to freely support the attainment of those purposes.

Abdulatif Famao, Torf Book Club CEO.

UGANDA – Nambi Sseppuuya Community Resource Centre

“The Nambi Sseppuuya Community Resource Centre is based in a rural community whose basic activity is subsistence farming. The centre is an inititative to contribute to the fight against poverty, illiteracy and disease through education and provision of reading materials.

Our activities on International Literacy Day included reading for pleasure, read alouds, storytelling, poem recitals, letter and reading games.”

The head teacher of a school just across the Nile River came back to the resource centre to thank us and to inform us that the children desired to visit the centre regularly.

“Many people who had not been to this resource centre are now visiting and calling up.”

ZAMBIA – Soloboni Primary School library

“Most of the community around this library are not in formal employment. Most of them are self-employed with no stable income.

Soloboni Primary School’s library serves both the learners and the surrounding community.

Zambia Library Service held a two day event at the school. On the first day schools competed against each other in reading competitions. On the second, pupils led a literacy parade which included a brass band and majorettes, plus book and poetry readings and debates. We also had a reading tent where young readers could enjoy books.”

There’s been an increase in the interest in books. The staff in charge of the reading tent were overwhelmed with the influx of children wanting to read.

ZANZIBAR – Unguja Public Library

“Community members’ activities in Unguja include small business, fishing and tourism. The library serves the general community from children to adults.

At Zanzibar Library Services’ celebrations we had a demonstration in which participants took slogans and pictures that promoted the culture of reading, there was a library tour and students performed a drama highlighting the importance of using the library. There was also drawing, a quiz and a book exhibition which included multilingual books that are essential for community development.”

As a result of the celebrations, many more children have been introduced to the library and the services it offers.

“The local community are now more ready to support the development of library services in Zanzibar.”


Our partners also held celebrations in the Gambia, Liberia, Malawi and Zimbabwe.

Unguja Children's Corner Zanzibar

Digital Connections Children’s Corners

The Digital Connections Children’s Corners project took place in Tanzania and Zanzibar from 2017 to 2018 in partnership with the Tanzania Library Services Board (TLSB) and the Zanzibar Library Service (ZLS).

The project aimed to enhance children’s library services in selected libraries in Tanzania and Zanzibar. A total of nine TLSB libraries and two ZLS libraries took part. Of these, five TLBS and two ZLS libraries created new Children’s Corners – child-friendly library spaces. The remaining five TLSB libraries which already had Children’s Corners implemented a digital component, introducing Kio Kit tablets to use alongside printed books.

Two evaluations were undertaken to look at the findings and recommendations from the project. One evaluation focused on the Children’s Corners sites which you can read here and the other looked at the Kio Kit sites which you can read here.

Key findings

  • Increased library use by children

Both the libraries with new Children’s Corners and those which have introduced Kio Kit tablets have seen an increase in children using the libraries and borrowing of printed books to read at home.

  • Librarians’s skills have increased

Librarians in libraries with new Children’s Corners report that as a result of the progamme training, their skills now extend far beyond issuing and shelving books. They now lead reading and other activities with the children.

Librarians working in those libraries which received Kio Kits now have the skills to introduce children to tablets and lead a range of individual and group activities using the devices.

  • Schools are also benefitting from the new reading materials

Local schools are bringing their classes to use the new Children’s Corners during the daytime to take part in reading activities. The Children’s Corners are proving so popular that libraries are having to ask schools to bring pupils at a scheduled time each week to avoid overcrowding.

Some of those libraries with Kio Kits are taking them out to local schools for pupils to use in class while others are running activities for classes to attend in the library during the school day.

Digital Connections Children’s Corners is generously funded by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. We would like to thank them for their ongoing support.

Children's Corner a MYSA Library

January Book of the Month

The very first Book of the Month of 2019 is:


We all want on safari
We All Went on Safari: A Counting Journey Through Tanzania donated by Baker Books

In this bright, beautifully illustrated picture book, the reader joins a group of children on a journey through the grasslands of Tanzania. Along the way, they encounter a variety of African animals, counting them in Swahili as they go.


Inside spread 1


The book includes a map of Tanzania and facts about the country, the Maasai people and each of the different animals discovered in the story. There’s even an illustrated guide to counting in Swahili.




Children’s books set in specific countries in Africa are especially treasured and can be hard to come by. This beautiful book will be loved by children in Tanzania as they see their home brought to life on the page.



Copies of this book are now on their way to our partners including the Tanzania Library Services Board where the familiar landscapes and animals will resonate with the children and aid learning and engagement with reading. It will also be enjoyed by children living in rural communities elsewhere in Africa.


ILD celebrations in Cameroon

Celebrating literacy across Africa!

Last month, our partners across 13 countries in sub-Saharan Africa celebrated International Literacy Day and the power of reading with some of the communities they work in.

The scene is set for celebrations in Tanzania


From Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania’s bustling capital city to remote, rural Zimbabwe, hundreds of school children took part in reading and spelling competitions, performed marches, dances, songs and dramas, gave presentations and speeches and engaged in debates.


Reading competition reader
A pupil in Kenya takes part in a reading competition


Local dignitaries and government officials attended as did local and national media, teachers, parents, publishers and writers as well as members of the wider communities. And all with the aim of promoting reading and raising the profile of libraries and the services they offer.


Giving out awards
A young reader is awarded a prize at EISERVI’s celebrations in Cameroon

As part of the celebrations, each partner gave out 600 brand new, inspiring books that you have helped to send as prizes for participants and for schools to add to their library collections. Our hope is that these books will enable children to continue to enjoy reading long after the excitement of the celebrations have faded.

Occasions like International Literacy Day provide the perfect opportunity to promote reading and literacy. Find out more about some of our partners’ celebrations below.



Celebrations took place at EISERVI’s library in Cameroon’s capital city Yaoundé.

Cameroon students
Secondary school students show off their prizes and book donation for their school library

Once the day’s celebrations were over, children who had never visited EISERVI’s library before were keen to return as soon as they could:

Aunty, I like your library and I would like to come here and read after school. Can I?

– Wenyi Favour, Government Primary School.



In Zimbabwe, Edward Ndlovu Memorial Trust took their celebrations to Selonga Primary School’s community library in rural Gwanda where pupils from neighbouring schools as well as their parents and the wider community joined them.

In addition to competitions, performances and presentations by the children, older people from the community read short stories and spoke of how literacy has enabled them to better their own lives and the lives of their families.

Being literate is important for everyone, young and old. In this fast-changing world, being illiterate will make you lose out on a lot of things – even being in touch with the larger outside world.

– Mrs Mathe.



Kenya National Library Service’s celebrations focused on Kwale branch library. Kwale County has the second highest rate of poverty in the country and a large percentage of school drop outs. This event was a great opportunity to promote reading and the library as a means of learning outside of formal education.

Reading competition
School children perform at Kenya National Library Service’s celebrations in Kwale


It changed the way I thought about reading. I thought reading was only for academic purposes …

– Benjamin Wabwire, teacher.



Our partner CODE Ethiopia celebrated International Literacy Day at Ejere Community Library in rural Ejere town.

Becoming a reader is a must.

– Tsige, teacher.

Apart from serving the local community, I myself have got a lot that changed my life from this library.

– Lemma Kefeni, retired teacher and former librarian.


Sierra Leone

The Sierra Leone Library Board marked International Literacy Day with an event at their headquarters library in Freetown.

There was huge excitement among the children that attended – for many of them it was the first time they had participated in an event like this.



Tanzania Library Services Board’s celebrations took place at their Central Library in Dar es Salaam.




The event included speeches from a variety of people highlighting the importance of reading:

Look how amazing it is that reading brings people together.

– Ms Latifah Miraji, Soma Book Café, local NGO.

Do not use your smart phones to serve only films or music, rather use it to download books of your desire. Read them, understand them and let them bridge your knowledge gap.

– Aneth Amos, pupil, Jangwani Girls Secondary School.


This year, the Library and Information Association of Eritrea held their celebrations at six public and community libraries across the Maekel, South and Anseba regions. This included two prisons where inmates gave speeches about the importance of reading in their lives. One 92-year-old female prisoner spoke about how she had completed first grade for the first time and is now preparing to enter second grade:

I will keep reading until my eyes no longer allow me to do so.



Grace Rwanda celebrated International Literacy Day at Ineza Children’s Corner in the Shyorongi Sector of the Northern Province.


Rwandan dancers
Celebrations included dance performances


The library has already seen an increase in visits from children and schools as a result of the event.


Football match
Celebrations even included a youth football match!

There are books we needed but couldn’t find them and we had limited books but now these books are here, we will read them much!

– Byaruhanga Moses, a pupil at GS Rwisirabo


International Literacy Day celebrations were also held by our partners in Liberia, Malawi, Uganda, Zambia and Zanzibar.

Happy reader

Children’s reading update from Tanzania

Even more young readers in Tanzania and Zanzibar are enjoying brand new books at their new Children’s Corners thanks to your support.

We caught up with their librarians, teachers and parents to find out more.


Young readers now have many more brand new children’s books to enjoy:

Before the project, we only had 200 books therefore the new books were a great boost to our library and our children.

– Mary Mazengo, Mbulu District Library, Tanzania.


Children are enjoying those new books in brightly painted, child-friendly spaces:

Before, there was no difference between the adult and the children’s sections. Children love the change in their section. It is more attractive.

–Mastura Abddul-Bahman Saleh, Kareem Islamic School, Unguja island, Zanzibar.


These changes to the libraries have made them very popular with local children:


Lots of children reading in the library


The library is the only child-friendly space in the whole of the district. Many children have been drawn to the library therefore we had to develop a schedule to accommodate 40 to 50 children at a time.

– Stephen Musiba, Librarian, Ngara District Library, Tanzania.


Best of all, children’s reading and learning skills are growing:

We have noticed that children are reading more books than before. The reading activities are helping because they are keen to read the books we read aloud together.

– Hudhaifa Hajji, Librarian, Unguja Library, Zanzibar.

We are happy that the library is preparing them for school. I have been bringing my three-year-old son to the library daily for five months. He can count up to 10 and sing the letters of the alphabet.

– Khalid Suleiman, parent, Pemba island, Zanzibar.


Check back soon for more updates from these new Children’s Corners. In the meantime, find out more about our work to support young readers across the world using the links below.


Writing at Rwinkwavu Community Library

Getting young people’s voices heard

The 2018 Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition is now open for submissions!

The competition offers all Commonwealth youth the opportunity to express their hopes for the future, their opinions on the present and thoughts on the past.

This year, the organisers are particularly keen to hear from talented young African writers of all backgrounds – such as those in your schools and libraries!

Here, Coral Fleming from the Royal Commonwealth Society tells us more about the awards and why you should encourage your readers to take part:


Can you tell us a little bit about the awards?

The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition is used by individuals and teachers to build confidence, develop writing skills, support creativity and encourage critical thinking, using literacy to empower young people to become global citizens.


A young writer in Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya
A young writer in Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya. Young people from all walks of life are encouraged to enter the competition.


The competition is open to all citizens and residents 18 and under from Commonwealth countries and to residents of Zimbabwe. That means if you are under 18 and from Cameroon, Kenya, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia or Zimbabwe, this competition is for you!

Not everyone can win – what are the benefits of entering for those who don’t win?

This competition is a fantastic way for pupils to develop their writing skills outside of schoolwork. We guarantee that every young writer who submits their entry correctly will have their piece read by a judge somewhere in the Commonwealth and will receive a Certificate of Participation.


2017 participants in Nigeria
Everyone who enters the competition will receive a Certificate of Participation, like these students at Abesan Junior College in Nigeria


You will also have the chance to win a Gold, Silver or Bronze Award (which will be shown on your Certificate) – a great confidence boost and perfect for job or further education applications.

Why are you so keen to have entrants from Africa?

The talent of African writers is undeniable; from Kenya’s Grace Ogot to Sierra Leone’s Ishmael Beah, there are so many amazing authors out there.

Every writer started out as a young person with thoughts in their head, dreams in their heart and a pen in their hand. We want to take the African potential and turn it into the next generation of brilliant writers. We want to be part of that journey.

The 2017 awards ceremony took place recently, can you tell us a bit about it?

The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition Awards Ceremony was held at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday 21st November. Our four 2017 winners from across the Commonwealth were Annika from Australia, Ariadna from Canada, Hiya from India and Ry from London.


2017 winners
The 2017 winners were presented with their certificates by HRH The Duchess of Cornwall. Photo credit: Fergus Burnett


HRH The Duchess of Cornwall presented the winners with their certificates along with their prizes – more than ten books each, generously donated by award winning authors! David Walliams, Anne Fine OBE, Zen Cho and Gyles Brandreth read excerpts of the winning poems and stories alongside the presentation.

The 2018 competition is now open. How can young writers get involved?

After a successful Awards Ceremony we are delighted to launch the 2018 Competition – on the theme of Towards a Common Future. If you like to write and want to share your take on current affairs, click here for more information about the competition and how to enter.



September Book of the Month

It’s Book of the Month time! This month’s title is:


Tanzania: The Path to Prosperity published by Oxford University Press, 2017 and donated by the National Library of Wales


This latest volume in Oxford University Press’ Africa: Policies for Prosperity series contains a wealth of information on the economic prospects of Tanzania.

It looks at the economic options facing policy makers. Topics range from potential hydrocarbon resources and developing the country’s manufacturing industries, to ways of transforming agriculture, increasing public investment and employment.

The chapter focusing on employment discusses, among other issues, the vital role of basic education in preparing people for work:

While formal education is not the only way to acquire skills for a particular job, the acquisition of basic numeracy and literacy skills is imperative for a country that hopes to reap the demographic dividend of a largely young population.

Books play an important role in acquiring and improving literacy skills yet for many public, school and university libraries, book purchasing budgets and the availability of books locally are limited. We are therefore proud to work with our partners in Tanzania, including the Tanzania Library Services Board (TLSB), to contribute to the country’s development by providing brand new books to support education, reading and lifelong learning.

TLSB ensures the books we send reach children in their schools, students studying at university and public library users of every age and walk of life.

It is crucial for higher education students to have access to new and up-to-date books like Tanzania: The Path to Prosperity to ensure their studies and research remain current. This book has been sent to TLSB who will donate it to one of Tanzania’s universities or public libraries where it will provide students with access to information they would not otherwise be able to access:

The donation is really important since it helps us to cover the gap of some missing references useful for the university community.

– State University of Zanzibar, commenting on books supplied by Book Aid International in 2016.


Kagera SLIB

School Library in a Box project: VSO Tanzania evaluation

Between 2011 and 2016, Book Aid International partnered with Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) Tanzania in a project to increase the literacy skills of primary school children in poor and remote areas in the Kagera region of mainland Tanzania. The published report is now available.

The School Library in a Box project targeted schools which did not have a library of their own and had very few books in the classrooms. It aimed to do this by providing 64 schools in the region with book box libraries filled with books in English and Kiswahili and training for teachers in how to teach reading activities that help develop reading comprehension skills in both English and Kiswahili.

As part of the School Library in a Box project, Book Aid International supplied over 24,500 brand new bright and engaging children’s books to fill the schools’ book box libraries, grants to purchase locally published titles in Kiswahili and funding to support teacher training delivered by VSO.

This is VSO’s report detailing all that has been implemented and achieved between 2011 and 2016. The School Library in a Box project has contributed to a notable improvement in pupils’ reading abilities with a 13% increase in Kiswahili reading test scores and a massive 39% increase in English reading test scores.


Click the image above to view the report in full