Book Aid International: Back to School Reading for 290,883

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The ‘Inspiring Readers’ program from Book Aid International reaches nearly 300,000 students by providing books to 285 primary schools.

Students working with reading materials provided by Book Aid International’s ‘Inspiring Readers’ program. Image: Book Aid International

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

A ‘Cupboard Library’ Carries 1,250 Books
A program called “Inspiring Readers” was established in 2016 as one of the many branded projects at the United Kingdom’s Book Aid International.

The program’s intent is to contribute to education in primary schools by setting up “cupboard libraries” and promoting reading.

“The overall goal was simple,” according to the team’s writeup: “to make schools book rich, staffed by confident, capable, and supportive teachers who incorporate regular reading into the school timetable and establish regular outreach contact between librarians and teachers.

“This was achieved by providing each of 285 primary schools with a ‘cupboard library’ packed full of 1,250 brand-new books, a grant to purchase local books, and training for teachers in how to bring these books to life in the classroom. The books provided ranged from picture books suitable for the youngest readers to the fiction, non-fiction and subject books that upper primary school children need to help them develop their reading skills.”

The results being reported out now by the group are strong:

  • Children reached: 290,883
  • UK books donated: 372,473
  • Local books purchased: 50,237
  • Librarians trained: 113
  • Teachers trained: 880
  • Hub libraries: 53
  • Schools supported: 297
Sarah Ogembo: ‘So Enticing to the Children’

Sarah Ogembo, Kenya National Library Service. Image: Book Aid International

Sarah Ogembo, a librarian at Kenya National Library Service, is among the first of the librarians to work with the “Inspiring Readers” project. In a prepared quote, she says that the fact that students can check out the books in this project means a lot to its success.

“The fact that this program was coming onboard with around 1,200 books in every school was so enticing to the children because they thought, ‘Now I can access the storybooks and I’m allowed to borrow them.’

“We now go into schools where children tell us, ‘I read all the books in the cupboard and we want more, are you here to give us more?'”

Ogembo says that “Inspiring Readers”  is realistic, in that schools don’t need space for a full library. “They don’t have to set aside a room for this,” she says, “just a small space or a corner where they can put this cupboard and say. ‘This is our start-up library.'”

Tweed: ‘Too Many Children Without Books’

If “Inspiring Readership” is ringing a bell for you, it may be because the program won the 2017 London Book Fair International Excellence Award, jurors liking the fact that it connects school and library programs in the African regions in which it’s operating.

Book Aid International’s African representative James Kimani says, “Public libraries are often sleeping giants. Very few activities used to happen between libraries and schools around them. However, the training of librarians and teachers brings them together and helps them appreciate each other’s roles.”

Book Aid chief Alison Tweed is quoted, saying there’s more work to do, of course. “We know that there are still far too many children without books in their schools,” she says, “and that the need for books in classrooms to help children catch up on lost learning is huge, and we hope to offer many more children the opportunity to read in their classrooms in the future.”

In a classroom with one of the ‘Inspiring Readers’ libraries. Image: 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 is a non-resident fellow of Trends Research & Advisory, and he has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's 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 was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As as an arts critic (National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.

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