Kathryn’s climbing Kilimanjaro!

Here at Book Aid International we are always pleased to hear about ways in which our supporters fundraise for us. We were delighted and excited to hear from Kathryn Smith recently, who is taking her fundraising to another level by attempting to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania! We caught up with her to see how her preparations are going.

Kathryn Smith

Kathryn is preparing for the trip of a lifetime.

So you’re climbing Mount Kilimanjaro…when’s the big day?

In just over a week! 7th September is when we start the trek and we should be reaching the summit by 9th.

Who’s going?

There will be seven of us all together – one of my sisters, my brother in law, my auntie and her friends. It started out as a 50th birthday celebration for my auntie and her friends but now other members of our family are joining in the fun.

What made you choose to fundraise for Book Aid International?

I’d actually never heard of Book Aid International but I wanted to fundraise for a small independent charity. I love reading and I really like the idea of making that enjoyment available for more people – when I found out Book Aid International works in Tanzania, it felt like the perfect fit. I have been to Tanzania before – I’m a physiotherapist and I did my student elective there and had a great experience so I’m really looking forward to going back.

What are you most excited about?

Coming back down! We are rewarding ourselves with a five night stay on the islands of Zanzibar (an archipelago in the Indian Ocean just off mainland Tanzania) so that’s serving as a good motivation. Other than that, I am really excited about seeing the sunrise from the summit. On the last day, we’ll get up in the (very) early hours to make it to the peak for the sunrise and I hope this will make for some very special memories.


Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

What are you most nervous about?

We have been training and I’m a fairly good walker, but I am worried about the altitude sickness. There’s nowhere in the UK to really prepare for how that will feel – I just hope I’ll be able to make it to the top.

What are you hoping to raise?

I’ve not really set myself a target – I just thought it was a good idea to make some money for a good cause at the same time as setting myself a personal challenge. But the work that Book Aid International does is so important I am hoping to be able to contribute in whatever way I can.

You can help Kathryn’s fundraising effort over on her fundraising page. For every £2 she raises, we can send another book to libraries in countries like Tanzania. We wish Kathryn and her family all the best with her adventure! If you’d like to fundraise for Book Aid International, why not check out our fundraising ideas page for inspiration? 

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August Book of the Month

Our August Book (or rather books) of the Month is the Rastamouse series, by Michael De Souza and Genevieve Webster; published and donated by Macmillan Children’s Books.

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Children’s picture books with a simple moral lesson are very popular with librarians in the countries served by Book Aid International. Books with bright, colourful illustrations, appealing characters and engaging stories are especially sought after. Michael de Souza’s Rastamouse books tick all these boxes!

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Inside spread from Rastamouse and Da Bag-a Bling

A cool crime-fighting reggae star, Rastamouse and his Easy Crew are called on by President Wensley Dale to solve mysteries such as who stole all the cheese in Mouseland or who stole the minibus from the orphanage. In every story the perpetrator is caught, repents of their misdeeds and turns from a life of crime to a more fulfilling life using their talents to help others. The stories are told in simple rhymes and the characters speak in patois, with a helpful glossary for readers who may be unfamiliar with the dialect.

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Inside spread from Rastamouse and the Crucial Plan

We love Rastamouse and so will many children visiting our Children’s Corners in Cameroon community libraries. Copies are also being sent to school and community libraries via our partners in Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya. Heartfelt thanks to Macmillan Children’s Books for this generous donation. We at Book Aid International agree with President Wensley Dale when he says at the end of Rastamouse and the Crucial Plan:

Easy Crew: come in ! Come in!
Are you reading me?
A message from the President:
Listen up, you three.

Rastamouse: Come in! Come in!
Me loved ya crucial plan.
Thank you for a job well done
Or as you would say, IRIE MAN!

Posted in Blog, Book of the Month, Cameroon, Children's Corners, Community libraries, Donations, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Quiz catch up

With our annual Literary Quiz on the horizon, we caught up with Inderjeet Kaur, Senior Reporting Analyst at Clifford Chance and Book Aid International Literary Quiz stalwart to find out why she and her colleagues take part each year.

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Inderjeet stamping books in our warehouse

Tell us about Clifford Chance and how it supports the work of Book Aid International.

Clifford Chance is one of the largest commercial law firms in the world. It has 36 offices in 26 countries across the world and has supported Book Aid International for over 20 years. The main ways in which we support the charity’s work are through volunteering in the warehouse, funding projects in sub-Saharan Africa and of course taking part in the annual Quiz!

How long have you and your colleagues been attending our annual Literary Quiz and why do you come?

We’ve been coming for three years now and we come because we love it! It’s a fun night and it raises money for Book Aid International at the same time. We love Book Aid International and are always looking for ways to support the charity and this is a great way to do it.

How will you and your team be preparing for this year’s quiz?

Actually, my colleagues take part in a lot of quizzes so they’ll be practising at those. They’re very good at them although we are yet to win the Book Aid International one.

Why should people come to our Quiz this October?

It’s a fun night and it’s raising funds for a really good cause – education is the best gift you can give someone in life.

Many thanks to Inderjeet for her time. We look forward to seeing her and the Clifford Chance team at the Quiz on Wednesday 14th October. For more information about our Literary Quiz and to book your team’s place, visit this page.

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Promoting a love of reading for children in Kenya

One of the things we often hear from our library partners is a concern about a lack of ‘reading culture’ in their communities. Our partners are sometimes worried that reading as a habit – both for pleasure and acquiring knowledge – does not hold the same importance as it should. Children read for study, but once they have passed their exams, they often cease to read regularly. This has major implications for adult literacy, as reading skills can be forgotten or become rusty, but it also means that both children and adults are potentially missing out on the richness, pleasure and benefits of reading regularly.

It’s not easy to identify why this might happen, but one reason is a simple lack of books. For children in particular, a lack of reading resources from a young age can mean they don’t pick up ‘the habit’ of reading regularly. Confidence is also a major issue; when a child doesn’t feel confident in their reading ability, they are more likely to associate books with study alone, often with negative connotations.

One of the ways to combat this is very simple – to provide more books – and we are proud to supply our partners with up to one million books each year. Another is to provide inspiring books to children from an early age, along with teachers or librarians who are trained to help children develop their literacy skills.


A librarian helps a young child with reading in Kibera Slum, Nairobi

We had a perfect opportunity to do just that earlier this year when we received a large donation of phonics books for young children from Pearson. In Kenyan schools, reading is taught through the use of phonics, but materials are often scarce or outdated, especially in poorer schools. We realised these books could meet a great need for a large number of schools and help improve prospects for literacy.

Book box

Phonics books donated by Pearson in book boxes

Working with our partner Kenya National Library Service (knls), we developed a model whereby 20 branch libraries could work with 200 local schools to ensure children receive a regular supply of books. The libraries divided the books up and each school received two book boxes of 1,000 books each.

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Anglea Mainga, a teacher from Ithaayoni Primary School heads off with her new box library

We also worked with knls to provide training for the teachers, as these schools often do not have a library nor a trained librarian and we wanted to ensure that both teachers and learners could use the books to their full potential. Part of this project is to send ‘class sets’ of the same title, so that children can each have a copy, or share between two.

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Teacher at Anajali Primary School hands out books from the book box

Around 18,000 pre-primary and early primary school children now have access to a their own box library. 20 librarians from knls attended training in March this year so that they could pass on skills and knowledge on teaching phonics effectively to teachers in 200 schools.

Feedback from librarians, teachers and children has been very positive so far. Patrick Mutta, a Librarian at Mwingi Branch Library, said: “The children will learn good vocabulary at a very early age. The books are progressive and can be used for different levels.”

Florence Cherono, a Librarian at Kericho Branch Library said: “The books are very friendly to the child and can captivate a child’s attention to the end.”

Anajali Primary School

A child reading at Anajali Primary School

If you want to find out more about our School Library in Box projects, you can watch this film.

If you want to find out more about our librarian training, you can read this blog.


Posted in Blog, Countries, Education, Kenya, Libraries, Literacy, Schools, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Improving society through knowledge

Stevie Russell is Book Aid International’s Collections Development Manager and a chartered member of CILIP (the UK’s Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals). She attended the annual CILIP conference in Liverpool on 2-3 July; here is her report.


I was very pleased to have this opportunity to attend the annual CILIP conference to spread the word about Book Aid International’s work as well as learning and sharing vital knowledge with my professional colleagues including one of Book Aid International’s partner librarians, Virginia Hamwela of Copperbelt University in Zambia. I also met up with many colleagues from my former life as an academic librarian, which gave me plenty of opportunities to promote our work, although I hardly needed to. The most striking impression I took away from the conference was that every one of the many librarians I spoke to was aware and hugely supportive of Book Aid International’s work: “Oh yes, Book Aid International, they’re brilliant!” was a common refrain!

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Stevie and Virginia

The other key message I took away from the conference, which was hammered home by several of the keynote speakers, was that librarians are vital. At Book Aid International, we are continually reminded of this in our work when we see the difference that librarians make in the libraries we partner with in sub-Saharan Africa. It is librarians, not buildings or objects, that make a library: we can take our skills anywhere, be roaming librarians in the community with a laptop or tablet. R. David Lankes, Professor of Information Studies at Syracuse University, United States, gave a prime example of this kind of outreach in his opening keynote speech: the camel library service provided by Book Aid International’s own partners, the Kenya National Library Service!

As Collections Development Manager, I am responsible for the general book provision programme at Book Aid International. An important part of this role is liaising with partners to ensure that we are supplying them with the right books, so their feedback is a vital part of this. The strand of sessions on the theme of Demonstrating Value was therefore of particular interest for me. It is a joy to receive news from partners on the positive impact that the books we supply are having. Samuel’s and Elina’s stories are just two examples of the inspiring case studies our partners share. But there are always more stories to be found and I came away with several ideas for strategies to gain access to even more feedback, and knowledge of new tools available, such as CILIP’s new Impact Evaluation toolkit (free to members online here).

Ideas box desk

The Ideas Box desk at the conference

Another conference theme of special interest to me was of course that of libraries and development. Stuart Hamilton, Deputy Secretary General of the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA), gave a keynote presentation on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (which supersede the Millennium Development goals). Library and information services are embedded in these goals as essential to sustainable development: without them, it would not be possible to meet the targets for literacy and education. As one of the signatories to the IFLA’s 2014 Lyon Declaration on Access to Information and Development, Book Aid International is proud to support the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

There is one particular group of people in every society for whom education is absolutely crucial: prisoners. This was brought home in a moving keynote speech by Erwin James, author and journalist, whose 20 years in prison were turned around by access to books and education via the prison library. Living proof that “A good book can change your life,” James discovered a talent for writing in prison that led to his career in journalism. Book Aid International partners with the African Prisons Project, an NGO with whom we are supplying books to prisons in Uganda, helping more vulnerable prisoners like James to turn their lives around inside and look forward to new prospects on the outside.

The CILIP conference was a wonderful experience and I came away with renewed enthusiasm for the work of librarians the world over. As R. David Lankes said in his keynote speech: we are librarians in spirit, not just by job title or qualification; we are united by a desire to improve society through knowledge. At Book Aid International we wholeheartedly agree and that is why in so many areas of our work, librarian training goes hand in hand with our book provision: through our workshops, we can help librarians develop their skills so that they can take their personal passion for libraries and enable them to inspire their own communities.

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