Too many children in Africa and around the world are growing up in a world without books. They live in families where parents are struggling even to put food on the table, so buying books is simply not possible. Schools almost never have reading books, and pupils must share a textbook between up to 14 pupils. In some cases, these children may not even have held a storybook.
Without access to books, children may never have the chance to expand their horizons through education or experience the joy of reading a story that transports them to another world. They have few opportunities to develop their talents and are unlikely to reach their full potential.
Coming together to create community libraries
Where governments are unable to provide the resources and services that communities need to enrich young readers’ lives, many have come together to create their own libraries. These community libraries differ enormously. Some are run by churches or not-for-profit organisations, while others are wholly community-run, with individuals pooling their limited resources to gather books and maintain a shared space.
Community libraries have the potential to offer a vital haven where children can discover books, but they are almost always run by volunteers or staff who have no formal librarian training and few have the funds to buy books. As a result, librarians often find it difficult to provide effective support for young readers.
Creating Book Havens
We are working with Community Libraries around the world to create Book Havens where children’s reading and learning can flourish. In each library, we will train volunteer and informal librarians in how to run their library while also supporting, engaging and inspiring young readers. In addition, we will provide funds to refurbish the library’s space to ensure it is welcoming and child-friendly and purchase locally published books and provide a collection of brand new children’s books from here in the UK.
Together, the training, funds, books and support we provide will transform under-resourced community libraries into inspiring, welcoming spaces where children will have the opportunity to discover books, read and reach their full potential for year so to come.
The first Book Havens are now open in the Mathare slum in Nairobi, Kenya, and are being well used by local children. The evaluation of the first two Book Havens has now been completed, and it found that children are reading more than ever before. Read the full report
The next Book Havens will be opened in Ethiopia thanks to the generosity of players of People’s Postcode Lottery.