Let’s make this the biggest World Book Day celebration ever!

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Last year, children all over the UK came together to do something amazing. They dressed up as their favourite book characters from a range of children’s stories – Elmer, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Angelina Ballerina to name but a … Continue reading

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News release: Extra funding announced for Book Aid International from players of People’s Postcode Lottery

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        Book Aid International is delighted to announce that players of People’s Postcode Lottery have awarded an extra £1.425 million to long-term supported charities. The library development charity, which sends up to one million brand new books … Continue reading

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January Book of the Month

We’re delighted to introduce you to our first book of the month for 2016:

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‘Which endangered animal lives in…?’ series written and donated by Jenny Tulip

2016 got off to an excellent start with a donation of over 10,000 children’s books from author Jenny Tulip. These books teach children about endangered species in a way that is fun and engaging.

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Curious Cat

In each book, feline explorer Curious Cat introduces a different country, from Borneo to Brazil, Canada to China, Mongolia to Pakistan –  with rhyming riddles to help the reader guess the identity of the endangered animal:

“So let’s read together and have a good look

And we shall find out by the end of this book.”

We are especially pleased with the two African titles, for Kenya and Sierra Leone, which will be of particular interest to our partners; but any child or teacher would enjoy these books. Bright colourful illustrations bring the creatures and their environment to life, featuring many other local fauna as well as the mystery one.

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Inside spread from ‘Which endangered animal lives in Kenya?’

Each book concludes with a close-up photograph of the animal along with some interesting facts about its habitat and habits. We love these books because they encourage children to learn about the serious issue of endangered wildlife in a way that they can enjoy. They are ideal for primary school libraries and our Open Doors Children’s Corners and Inspiring Readers programmes. Copies have already been sent to Cameroon for both of these programmes, with many more being sent to other partners throughout the year ahead.

Posted in Blog, Book of the Month, Children's Corners, Donations, Education, Inspiring Readers, Kenya, Libraries, Schools, Sierra Leone | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why I support Book Aid International

Book Aid International supporter Dr Kathy Rooney is a publishing consultant with a focus on strategy and digital. She has over 40 years’ publishing experience and spent nearly 30 of them helping to build Bloomsbury from a start-up in the 1980s into the highly successful publishing company it is today. We caught up with Kathy to find out why she is so passionate about supporting our work in sub-Saharan Africa.

Kathy Rooney

Dr. Kathy Rooney

Sending 1.1 million books to sub-Saharan Africa in 12 months is a very considerable achievement for Book Aid International – that works out at over 3,000 every day including weekends! If each book was a standard paperback and they were laid end to end they would stretch for over 20 kilometres.

I support Book Aid International because it provides long-term, practical help in a well thought-through way, working closely with local partners in Africa through programmes specifically tailored to meet their needs. This pragmatism goes back to the charity’s earliest days over sixty years ago.

I’m a publisher and publishers also tend to be pragmatists who want their books to excite, inspire, inform and ultimately to impart knowledge and encourage a love of reading.

On 23 April 2009, when I was responsible for Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing (BQFP), Bloomsbury’s publishing initiative with the Qatar Foundation, many children in Doha, Qatar, received a free book – a bilingual, Arabic and English edition of The Selfish Crocodile to mark World Book Day. It was the first time the international event had been celebrated in Qatar and marked the start of BQFP. The venture aimed not just to publish books for children and adults in Arabic and English but also to encourage a life-long love of books and reading through working with the local community, and to transfer publishing know-how and skills to make the business self-sustaining in a country which had never before had a book publisher.

It was during this time that I became a regular donor to Book Aid International because of the similarity of their aims to my publishing work in the very different and much more affluent setting of the Gulf.

Yet the problems we faced were often similar. For example, librarians in schools in Qatar often didn’t really know how to make best use of their books. So at BQFP we recruited a community outreach specialist who worked with teachers and school librarians helping to train them in how best to use books (any books, not just BQFP’s) with their students of differing ages and abilities. Likewise Book Aid International’s training for teachers and librarians ensures that the donated books will be used effectively whether to contribute to increasing reading literacy or inspiring readers and encouraging a life-long love of reading.

Logistical problems sometimes got in the way of our ambitious plans at BQFP. So I take my hat off to Book Aid International surmounting the undoubted logistical challenges to deliver up to one million books to hard-to-reach parts of Africa year after year.

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Librarian Mary Kinyanjui helps a young school girl with her phonics in Kibera slum, Nairobi, Kenya

Book Aid International’s new school library development programme, Inspiring Readers, was the subject of a moving event held in November 2015 at Stationers’ Hall in London. It was humbling to hear about and see on video Book Aid International’s work in practice and the youngsters revelling in the books which had made their way from Camberwell, London to Nairobi, Kenya, and underlined the importance of the charity’s aim to have ‘the right book in the right place’.

Here’s to Book Aid International’s continuing success in 2016 and beyond.

If you’re a publisher and interested in finding out how you can support our work, please contact Jenny Hayes.

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Local training in Malawi

In November 2015, Book Aid International’s Education Project Officer Ashleigh Brown travelled to Malawi to visit our partner Malawi National Library Service (MNLS) and oversee a training workshop led by Malawian librarians. Here she tells us about her experience:

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Part of our Open Doors Children’s Corners programme is providing training for library staff to become expert children’s librarians. In order to build a sustainable network of expertise among our partners, we recently piloted training a group of expert librarians who can then pass on their knowledge to their own colleagues. The training workshop that I went to oversee, with Judith (our Project Manager) in Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe, was special as it was the first time that the Malawian librarians leading it had run their own training for their peers.

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Workshop participants hard at work

The workshop gathered together eleven librarians from across Malawi whose libraries already have Open Doors Children’s Corners, thanks to funding from players of the People’s Postcode Lottery. Earlier in 2015, these librarians attended initial training on how to run a successful children’s library and this new workshop was an opportunity for them to reflect on what they have achieved since their library spaces were refurbished, and what they can do to improve their children’s services for the future. Together they shared their successes, challenges and ideas for how to create the best possible children’s libraries in Malawi.

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Khumbo leading the training

Both of the local trainers, Khumbo Ng’ong’ola and Laura Malala attended our first regional ‘Training of Trainers’ in Kisumu, Kenya in August last year, where we prepared expert librarians and trainers to pass on their knowledge and expertise to their colleagues back home. During this five day workshop, Khumbo and Laura learned key techniques in how to inform and inspire participants, and this training in Malawi was their first chance to put what they had learned into practice.

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The workshop included the chance for participants to trial reading activities with children at a local school

When I spoke to them both afterwards, they described how buoyed up they felt by having this experience, and how pleased they were that they had been given the chance to take on the roles of trainers and help their peers improve.

After experiencing the training and seeing the energy of the librarians who took part, I couldn’t wait to visit their libraries and see what they were up to. I travelled to the south of the country to visit Monkey Bay, Balaka and Blantyre libraries, while my colleague Judith headed north to visit the others.

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A reader in Monkey Bay Children’s Corner

The first library I visited was Monkey Bay, a tiny library near the shores of Lake Malawi. When I arrived, a reading activity was taking place on the grass outside. There were about 50 children of all ages gathered around the librarian, Roderick, who was using a book to play a word game. This was really encouraging as the game required the skill and creativity of the librarian and the children were engaged and learning new words from the library books in their Children’s Corner.

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A reading tree in Balaka Children’s Corner

When I arrived in Balaka, the children’s library space looked beautiful and was full of children reading quietly. One particular girl aged eight said she came to the library every day and had improved her reading at an impressive speed. She even read me a page of the book she was reading, and did so with confidence.

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The bright and busy Blantyre Children’s Corner

Blantyre (the first Children’s Corner we established in Malawi) is another Children’s Corner with lots going on. The room was large, bright and colourful and there were children of all ages and social groups enjoying their library space. Children from the local international schools shared tables with street children, and everyone was enjoying the books together. One boy told me how he wanted to become a scientist and had read all of the non-fiction science books that we had sent to Blantyre. He was very hopeful for more.

We are now working with MNLS to set up Children’s Corners in a further five libraries in their network. Each will receive a grant to refurbish their children’s spaces, as well as two training workshops co-facilitated by the local Malawian trainers. These libraries will also benefit from a digital element, where e-readers supplied by our partner Worldreader will be available in the Corners – helping to engage more children in using their library. I look forward to visiting Malawi again to witness these transformations.

My trip to Malawi was a wonderful opportunity to get under the skin of the country and really understand and experience what life is like for a Malawian librarian with their own Children’s Corner. And what I found was enthusiasm, warmth and determination to bring the joy of reading to more children.

You can find out more about our Open Doors Children’s Corners project here and you can see these Malawian Children’s Corners in this short film.

Posted in Africa, Blog, Children's Corners, Digital, Libraries, Malawi | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Local training in Malawi