Book Aid International’s Year: 867,567 Books to 19 Countries

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Solar lamps as well as hundreds of thousands of books were in play in 2020 as Book Aid International’s logistics team and donor-publishers got books to refugee camps as well as libraries.

Eunice Eyi Dotse, a student in Ghana, studies with a book donated by Book Aid International in the market stall her mother operates. Image: Book Aid International

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Book Aid’s Tweed: ‘An Incredibly Challenging Year’
As Publishing Perspectives reported in August, Book Aid International’s effort in 2020 was focused on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on school children in some of its most challenged markets. In many cases, the most important effort is to get books into homes at times when lockdown conditions prevent normal reading programs in schools.

book aid international logoWe pointed out then that among the most creative efforts deployed was the outfitting of 40-foot shipping containers as libraries. The “Voyager Container Library” program, working with Grace Rwanda, installed one of these units in Kigali’s Gasave district with 4,500 books.

Based in the United Kingdom, the charity now talks in its media messaging of the “generation COVID” it’s trying to reach, primarily in underserved markets of the Global South.

And one of the most challenging effects of the pandemic’s outbreaks was a shutdown of Book Aid’s warehousing facility for two months.

Despite that and other constraints, this nonprofit program can report today (January 13) that in 2020, it delivered 867,567 new books to schools, libraries, universities, hospitals, and refugee camps in 19 countries, all donated by book publishers in the United Kingdom.

Hachette’s Maitra: ‘To Change Their Lives for the Better’

At Kampala’s Mengo Hospital, Ugandan medical students work with books donated by Book Aid International. Image: Book Aid International

Hachette UK group communications director Doyel Maitra is quoted, saying, “We’re proud to continue our partnership with Book Aid International to support its work with communities around the world who struggle to access books.

Doyel Maitra

“Reading inspires, educates and entertains, and ultimately helps people to change their lives for the better.

“Last year, Hachette UK donated 43,644 books to Book Aid International and we hope to expand on this in 2021, so we can help to bring the joy and opportunities of books to even more people.”

Donations in 2020 included 431,000 children’s books, as well as 88,000 teen and YA fiction. In addition, there were 75,000 medical texts.

And—as is the case with the Kalimat Foundation for Children’s Empowerment—Book Aid International has made a specific commitment to the support of displaced peoples, getting 5,520 books into Greece for its refugees and 37,942 books to Cameroonians forced to flee, as reported by the UNHCR, the United Nations’ Refugee Agency. In the case of books for refugees, the Book Aid program is called Pioneer Book Boxes.

Alison Tweed

Book Aid CEO Alison Tweed is quoted, saying, “2020 was an incredibly challenging year, and we’ve been overwhelmed by the generosity of our supporters.

“We know that many publishers faced uncertainty over this last year, yet their book donations to our charity never wavered, and it was only through that support that we were able to keep providing books around the world.

“I’d like to thank each and every organization that chose to support our charity in 2020—and invite them to join us as we look to 2021 and beyond.”

Books, and Light for Reading Them

A shipment destined for Kenya is loaded up. Image: Book Aid International

Solar energy is a part of Book Aid’s work, too, its Solar Homework Club—which has won a London Book Fair Excellence Award—designed to give students both books and solar lamps that charge during the day to operate at night when electricity isn’t available. The organization  points out that solar lighting became especially important during the pandemic year when schools were closed and camps were locked down.

Speaking from the educational NGO Windle International Kenya—the program responsible for refugee camp education—George Nandi is quoted, saying, “When schools were closed, learning was going on [in Kenya] through radio lessons, but our students faced challenges in accessing devices such as radios, smart phones, and Internet bundles.

“So the teachers issued out books provided by Book Aid International and also solar lamps.

“They helped the students to continue to study at home.”

Founded in 1954 by Hermione, the countess of Ranfurly, the Ranfurly Library Service’s name was changed 40 years later, in 1994 to Book Aid International. Since its creation in the 1950s, the organization has provided more than 37 million books to its beneficiaries. Today, Book Aid International works to ship around 1 million brand new books to thousands of communities in which people have few opportunities to access books and read. 

The program works with an extensive network of libraries, schools, hospitals, NGOs. The charity estimates that the books it provides are available to as many as 24 million people every year.  

Students in Ghana in class with Book Aid International titles. Image: Rotary Club and Rainbow Trust Foundation, provided by Book Aid International


More from Publishing Perspectives on Book Aid International is here, and more from us on Africa is here. More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's 2019 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson also has worked as a senior producer, editor, and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA, and as an arts critic (National Critics Institute) with The Village Voice and Dallas Times Herald. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.

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