At Book Aid International, we work with a range of people in all kinds of situations that mean they don’t have access to books. This includes working with correctional facilities, juvenile offender centres, women skills centres and vulnerable youth centres in Zambia.
The books sent are key to helping young people in these centres engage in education. Many of them are from poor social-economic backgrounds, so gaining access to books at this moment in their lives can make a huge difference to their future.
“The books you have donated to our facility have really added value to my life. They’ve given me hope for the future.”
In total, six facilities have received 6421 books so far, helping hundreds of young people gain vital skills; from self-sufficiency to theoretical knowledge, business and creative skills.
“Not having these books would mean I wouldn’t be able to sit my exams and find a proper job”.
Since the books arrived in these centres, enrolment in literacy classes has gone up. Not only has there been a 76.3% increase in men and women sitting their local exams, but also the number of people passing GCSE’s has gone from zero to 172.
While speaking to Allen, an inmate at Mumbwa Correctional Facility, he told us how he’s hugely benefited from the books sent.
“I now spend most of my time reading, the books have opened my mind. Thank you for the knowledge which you have brought to us”.
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 – EISERVI library
“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.
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
“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.
Tradwel Chilala in Zambia began his career with Kitwe City Council as a cleaner. Using books you helped to send, he has developed his skills and is now an Administrative Officer at Kitwe City Council and studying for a degree. He believes he would not be where he is today without books from Book Aid International.
Here he tells us about the difference having access to brand new books have made for him.
The secret to my rapid career change has been burying my head in books mostly donated by Book Aid International.
I grew up in a village between Zambia’s capital city, Lusaka and the country’s tourist capital, Livingstone. I left school when I was in the sixth grade of primary school, age 15.
After that I had a number of jobs – I was a garden boy, shop attendant and security guard. In all these jobs I believed that I needed to do something that was satisfying hence, I decided to start up own business as a street vendor which I managed for 12 years.
Due to the little knowledge I had of business circles, my fortunes dwindled. I went into charcoal burning for a few months and with the capital I reopened the shop. It was during this spell that I realized the biggest gap in my life was my education level.
My shop was overlooking the Copperbelt University. The sight of it kept me hoping to one day to be a student.
Then I was offered employment as market cleaner by Kitwe City Council.
The turning point in my career came when I attended a career exhibition in 2015 at the University of Zambia. I realised that I could do what I was most passionate about: They had displayed books in various disciplines from Book Aid International, including Public Administration, which was my preferred field of study.
Having seen the adequate reference materials that were available in the university library, I felt encouraged to enroll for a two year Diploma Programme in Public Administration.
Joy came to me after I successfully completed my Diploma Program in 2016 as I was then promoted from Revenue Collector to Administrative Officer.
The availability of the books I needed also gave me the desire to pursue a degree program in Public Administration.
I enrolled for the course in 2017 with the University of Zambia by distance learning. I am the first person in my family to go to university and I am now a proud third year student.
I spend my free time in the University of Zambia Library – I am still greatly benefiting from the books that are in the library.
My degree course is the requisite qualification for most government positions – I highly aspire to hold certain positions and with the books at the university library, it’s one thing that I believe I’ll achieve.
I totally agree with Book Aid International’s statement that books change lives. They have changed my life.
This writing competition offers all young people in the Commonwealth aged 18 and under the chance to express their hopes for the future, opinions of the present and thoughts on the past through writing. It is a great way for talented young writers you work with to develop their skills and build their confidence.
This year, organisers of the competition are particularly keen to hear from talented young African writers from a variety of backgrounds.
We spoke to 19-year-old Zambian student Esther Mugalaba, a 2016 runner up, who told us why taking part in the competition is such a worthwhile thing to do:
“To quote T-Nehisi Coates,
The best part of writing is not the communication of knowledge to other people but the acquisition and synthesizing of knowledge for oneself.
Writing, especially competitively, pushes you to dig for information on subjects that you may have otherwise never thought to look out for on your own. This is great because as part of the process, you begin to form valid opinions on so many different things and adopt well-informed views of the world, the importance of which, cannot be overemphasied.
If you have heard about the competition and have thought that you could never write anything good enough to be appreciated or noticed, chances are you are grossly underestimating yourself.
Write it out. Write that poem, write that essay, write that article. Amazing things just may come of it.
You might discover a talent or a passion that will forever define who you are and what your contribution to this world is.”
We hope that you and the young people you work with are inspired to take part. Find out more about the competition and to take part, use the links below.
This practical and informative book has been developed in partnership with Leeds College of Building and written with construction learners in mind. It is brimming with up-to-date know-how from the construction industry to help students broaden their knowledge and prepare for assessments as well as gain tips on building a CV and seeking employment in the construction industry.
Vocational books like this are very popular in public and community libraries where out-of-school learners or unemployed people use them to develop new skills and students and apprentices use them to prepare for their exams.
Books on vocational topics including construction are also incredibly useful for people in prisons and prison rehabilitation centres such as those supported by our partner Zambia Library Service where this book will be going, to help prisoners develop new skills, gain qualifications and equip themselves for life after release.
Books on topics such as construction, carpentry, plumbing and agriculture are always in high demand among our partners’ readers yet we are unable to supply the volume needed. If you are able to donate brand new books in this category and help us get more of these books into the hands of those who really need them, please get in touch.
As 2017 draws to a close, we are looking back over the last twelve months and forward to 2018. In this blog, our Chief Executive Alison Tweed reflects on the highlights from 2017 and gives us a preview of the year ahead.
This has been a year of change for our team at Book Aid International as we focused on putting our Vision 2020: Where Books Change Livesstrategy into action. Launched in March, our new strategy commits us to ensuring that the books we send reach those who face the greatest barriers to accessing books.
To begin making that vision a reality, we focused on establishing partnerships in new countries where people lack the books they need, as well as continuing to support all our more longstanding library and education partnerships.
The books we provided reached people in some of the most difficult to reach places in the world who are determined to keep reading in the face of instability and uncertainty about the future. We sent books to universities in Somalia, to transit camps in Greece, to schools for Syrian refugees in Lebanon and to the world’s youngest nation which continues to be gripped by conflict, South Sudan.
In 2017, we continued to expand the programme and today almost 89,000 pupils in Kenya, Cameroon and Malawi have books in their classrooms and trained teachers to help them discover how reading supports their learning.
Highlights of the year for me also included:
Helping reading and learning to flourish in Nairobi’s Mathare slum through our Book Havensproject
Giving secondary school pupils in Zambia new resources to study and succeed in their exams by creating Study Hubs
When I look back on 2017, more than anything I will remember the people who told us how the books we send are helping them to change their own lives.
I was particularly inspired by the words of 17 year old Lydia in Uganda who reminds us how determined people around the world are to read:
My dad always says ‘You shouldn’t go there, collecting books from there. Those books don’t help you.’ He doesn’t know how they help me. But my mum knows. She helps me go out to the library and get the books. I have already read all the fiction in the library – there are not enough now! We need more so we can keep learning. For me, I am going to be a writer, so I must keep reading!
Lydia is just one of the estimated 24 million people who read the books we provide in any one year. We could not reach a single one of those readers without the new books that are so generously donated by publishers, the funds we receive from individuals, trusts and companies and the hard work of our volunteers. We would like to extend a very warm thank you to all of our supporters for all that you do.
Looking forward to 2018
In 2017 we sent over 930,000 books to a wide range of new and established partners.
In 2018 we are aiming to send up to 1.2 million books and we are expanding our warehouse operations in Camberwell to help us do just that.
We will also continue to implement our Inspiring Readers,Book Havens and Study Hub projects and we are currently exploring the next steps for our work providing e-books alongside print books for children.
We are very much looking forward to a year of new partnerships and new opportunities to reach those who need books most and we hope that you will join us as we continue to work toward a world where everyone has access to books that will enrich, improve and change their lives.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Over the course of 12 months, Book Aid International worked in partnership with Zambia Open Community Schools (ZOCS) to set up libraries in 15 community schools in the Lusaka and Central provinces of Zambia. The project Final Evaluation Report has now been published.
Community schools in Zambia are vital for the thousands of children who cannot get to or afford to attend a government school, however these schools do not receive any government funding and often operate with very few resources, including books. The project aimed to improve the quality of education in community schools in Zambia by providing each of the 15 schools with new books and teacher training.
Each school received 1,500 brand new books from the UK, 300 local curriculum books and two trunks in which to store their books. Two teachers from each school also attended workshops in how to manage their library and make use of books in the classroom.
Lessons learned by the evaluation include:
– New reading periods have been established that are likely to help improve pupils’ reading in the short to medium term. – Lending books to children is only taking place in three out of five schools because teachers fear the books would not be returned. – Teachers reported an average 191% increase in their knowledge of library related matters since the project began. – Teachers are using books in the classroom to teach multiple subjects. One teacher reported using a science book called ‘The Human Body’ to teach biology and another used a book about Volcanoes to teach a geography lesson. – Teachers are using creativity to improve learning environments.Some teachers have used maize sacks to create book pockets on their classroom walls. Drawing children’s attention to books generates interest and can lead to more reading.
To celebrate International Literacy Day, we asked you to share pictures and stories of how literacy is thriving where you are. You responded with amazing accounts and photos showcasing the difference that the ability to read is making to you and your communities.
Here’s a collection of the wonderful and inspiring things you shared with us:
As a mother, if I couldn’t read, I wouldn’t know how to handle my baby and my family.
– Karen, Mathare Youth Sports Association library user, Nairobi, Kenya
Reading feeds the soul. It opens opportunities for us and I think the person who does not read misses a lot.
– Fatema, West Bank
Reading has allowed me to feel limitless.
Before, travel was hard because I couldn’t read signposts myself. But now I can go everywhere!
– Phocas, 28, Rwanda
This is just a small selection of all the images and stories we received. You can take a look at them all here. We’ll also be sharing more pictures from partners on our twitter feed as they celebrate International Literacy Day at their libraries over the coming weeks.
Pascal Nsokolo, Senior Risk Consultant at Legal & General, recently spent a day away from his desk, stamping books in our warehouse as part of his company’s Corporate Social Responsibility programme. Pascal stamped over 1,000 brand new books and raised £250 for us as Legal & General matched each hour of his time with funding.
Originally from Zambia and a member of the Senior Chief Nsokolo family, Pascal had some very special reasons for wanting to support our work. We caught up with him to find out more.
I chose to donate my company volunteering time to Book Aid International as in 2016, they donated 1,600 new books to support a reading initiative I founded in my district in Zambia called Get Mbala Reading. I believe that those of us that are fortunate in a way, should do their best to help others that are less fortunate. I concluded that the best way to give back to the community would be to help raise literacy levels within my community in Mbala.
Mbala District is Zambia’s most northerly large town. It is a rural area and most people are farmers or work in tourism. In schools, there are few resources including books. As a result, the District has very low literacy levels with over 70% of children leaving primary school without the expected level of literacy to prepare them for secondary school and beyond.
My family and I set up Get Mbala Reading last April to address these challenges and raise literacy levels, including digital literacy, across the district. As a senior member of the Senior Chief Nsokolo family, I take my obligations and responsibilities to the people of Mbala seriously. I believe that we as a family have an added responsibility to ensure that our people have a positive and bright future.
The ambition of Get Mbala Reading is to raise literacy levels so that everyone in Mbala has the skills they need to succeed throughout their education and later in life. We aim to do that by ensuring every school in Mbala has a library filled with books, including those in local languages. We also want to increase access to digital technology in schools and raise awareness about the importance of regular school attendance.
We work with the District Education Board Secretary’s office to support and promote literacy by donating books and computers. We also support initiatives such as reading challenges and digital lessons in schools.
Thanks to the 1,600 new books which Book Aid International donated, we are now supporting six schools in Mbala District with reading books. These schools had few or no reading books at all and their pupils were struggling with literacy and numeracy. Now, with the support of Get Mbala Reading and Book Aid International, the children have the chance to enjoy reading and improve their literacy skills as well as participate in inspiring reading activities.
“Thanks a lot; you don’t know what you have done to the district and the learners. You have added value to our education and sustainable development of the children.”
– District Education Board Secretary Mrs Kelby Chizyuka.
Our hope for these children and indeed for the Mbala District is for a bright, positive future for all, with high-quality schools and very high literacy levels. When you read, everything changes and that is exactly what the books which Book Aid International sent are doing.
Many thanks to Pascal for his generous support. The books that he stamped will soon be going on a shipment and the money he raised is enough to send 125 books to communities that might not otherwise have access to brand new books. Find out more about our work using the links below.