The need for Children’s Corners
With few books in schools and often no books at home, children can struggle to read and learn. For most children, a local library – where one exists – is the only place where they can enjoy books and improve their reading skills.
While some public libraries in Africa have sections for children, the spaces are not always suitable. Many are in the main library room, meaning children are unable to read aloud or play freely. Librarians are often not trained to work with children and while many public and community libraries have collections for younger readers, these are often old, outdated or unsuitable for the reading level of the children they serve. The lack of an inviting and dedicated space in libraries for children can discourage them from visiting and prevent them from discovering the joy of reading and developing their reading skills.
About Children’s Corners
Four key elements are critical to every Children’s Corner we create.
1. New children’s books. We provide a collection of around 2,500 new, high quality children’s books that make reading exciting. As they explore these stories, children practise their reading skills and gain confidence. We can also integrate e-books into Children’s Corners to give children a new way to explore the written word.
2. Local books. We also provide a grant for the purchase of locally published children’s books which contain familiar stories. These books can be in local languages that help build children’s reading confidence.
3. A child-friendly space. In addition to a book purchase grant, we also provide grants so that libraries can transform their spaces into bright, welcoming places full of colour and designed especially for young readers.
Bright walls, murals and pictures encourage children to explore books. Young readers are also more likely to spend time in a library where the furniture is the right size for them or where they can read with friends on mats or cushions.
4. Librarian training. Our librarian-led team in the UK has worked with our library partners to develop a specialist training programme. The training is designed to help librarians understand children’s needs, encourage children to read and inspire young readers to love books.
Creating Children’s Corners
We launched the Open Doors appeal to mark our 60th anniversary in 2014. We aimed to raise £600,000 to open 60 Children’s Corners in libraries across sub-Saharan Africa which would offer children inspiring, welcoming places to read.
We are delighted to announce that in 2016, the appeal exceeded its target, with £618,102 raised. That’s enough to complete the 60 Children’s Corners the charity set out to open plus an additional two corners.
Our Chief Executive, Alison Tweed, expressed her gratitude to the donors who gave to the Open Doors appeal:
Three years ago Open Doors seemed like a huge mountain to climb. We were determined to achieve our goals, but the appeal target of £600,000 was more than we had ever tried to raise for a single project. Exceeding the target was a proud moment for our entire team. We would like to thank the many donors who gave so generously to Open Doors. We are also very grateful to our partners in the UK book trade who gave the brand new books which are at the heart of every Children’s Corner.
Today, all 60 Open Doors Children’s Corners we set out to develop are in progress or open. Our partners report increasing numbers of children visiting libraries – more than fourfold in some locations, meaning that more and more children are able to access appealing, up-to-date reading materials. In total, including Open Doors and our other Children’s Corners, over 100 Children’s Corners are open across Africa.
The impact of Children’s Corner
We have already seen increasing numbers of children becoming library members and benefiting from taking books home, where they can share their reading experiences with parents, siblings and friends. Librarians have also reported greater confidence in dealing with children in their libraries and running reading-based activities. Teachers have reported grade increases in school, improved vocabularies and wider range of books being read as a result of using their local Children’s Corner.
Nancy Phiri, Head Librarian, Blantyre Library, Malawi: “The space is beautiful, well-decorated and is child-friendly. Now the children are able to come there, they will be able to read their books aloud, show each other pictures, laugh and have a happy time…This is the best achievement that Blantyre Library has done.”
The future of Children’s Corners
We hope to open many more Children’s Corners in the years to come. If you would like to be a part of hte next Children’s Corner you can get involved using the links below.