By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
‘Reading Around the Reserve’The publishing charity Book Aid International—known well to Publishing Perspectives readers for its efforts not only in Africa but also in Asia, the Middle East, parts of Europe, and the Caribbean—reports a ceremony near the end of last month (March 26) in Malawi’s Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve.
The event was a handover of 9,200 copies of Stephen Moss’ Planet Earth II: A New World Revealed (Penguin Random House/BBC Books, 2016), the 10-year follow-on to the original work of the same name. The books, which have a foreword by David Attenborough, were donated by publishers in the United Kingdom and shipped from the charity’s warehouse team in south London’s Camberwell neighborhood.
Staff members of African Parks, the conservation nonprofit managing 19 parks in 11 countries, were participants in the event, presented as part of a program called “Reading Around the Reserve.” That umbrella effort, according to Book Aid spokespeople, has provided more than 24,000 books to 71 schools around the Nkhotakota, which is Malawi’s largest reserve. It spans 692 square miles (1,794 square kilometers) of intact Miombo woodland.
Today, it’s reported that Nkhotakota has seen nearly 500 elephants and other animals introduced to repopulate the reserve, with African Parks managing the development for the government of Malawi.
In a prepared statement, Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve park manager Samuel Kamoto is quoted, saying, “The long-term sustainability of this exceptional ecosystem is only possible if local communities truly value it.
“Education is central to our community development strategy, which is aimed at ensuring people living around the reserve both value and benefit from its existence.
“These wonderful books will help us show young people here in our communities the significance of the world’s natural heritage, which we have a shared responsibility to protect for future generations to benefit from.”
Book Aid’s programmers estimate that the 71 schools served in the “Reading Around the Reserve” program reach as many as 42,000 students and the effort has trained 142 teachers in the system to use the donated books.
Thomas-Chuula: ‘Teacher Training Is Vital’
In another statement, Samantha Thomas-Chuula, Book Aid’s head of programs, is quoted, saying, “Teacher training is vital to ensuring that books become part of classroom learning and can really support children’s education.
“We usually provide a member of our own team to deliver training, but during the pandemic that hasn’t been possible. So we developed training videos and offered a ‘train the trainer’ Zoom course for a professional librarian from the Malawi National Library Service.
“She then went on to train all the teachers around the reserve, and today those teachers have the skills to help thousands of students discover books and succeed in education.”
Book Aid’s goal is to annually ship some 1 million books into needy communities in various parts of the world, operating through non-governmental organizations (NGOs), hospitals, schools, libraries, and other partners often in the educational space.
African Parks operates its management services on contracts with governments not only of Malawi but also of Angola, Benin, Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo, Mozambique, Rwanda, Zimbabwe and Zambia. This year, the program expects to have its “Reading Around the Reserve” programming in 55 schools around Zambia’s Bangweulu Wetlands.
As Publishing Perspectives readers will recall, Book Aid International is one of the programs chosen for 2021 funding from the African Publishing Innovation Fund, helmed by the International Publishers Association (IPA) and its president Bodour Al Qasimi, in association with the philanthropic program Dubai Cares. That new grant has been made for Book Aid’s work in Tanzania, where government budget demands have left the Zanzibar region in need of community and school library support.
For this, the program is preparing three of its shipping-container library facilities, not unlike the pilot Voyager Container Library program it installed in Kigali in the spring of 2019.
In the United Kingdom, Book Aid International is one of the programs supported by the People’s Postcode Lottery, specifically the “postcode trust” (of 20 such trusts) called the Postcode Education Trust. A minimum of 32 percent of the Postcode Lottery program, regulated by Britain’s gambling commission, goes to charities designated by the trusts and players spend £10 per month (US$13.82) to participate.
More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here