I had a fascinating meeting earlier this week at Book Aid International. It was great to hear how the operation works. Every year the charity sends half a million books to public and community libraries, and libraries in schools, universities, slums, refugee centres, NGOs and prisons in sub-Saharan Africa and Palestine. They make huge efforts to source and supply the kinds of reading materials that are wanted on the ground in each of the countries they work with. Books on education, medicine, computing, law, business and careers are requested time and time again. Fiction is very popular. E-books are becoming increasingly important in some countries. All the books are new. Many publishers in the UK donate generously. Book Aid International also buys a lot of books published in Africa.
Given my involvement in children’s and young people’s reading, I was particularly interested in their support for children’s literacy. Children’s books form a large proportion of the books they supply: non-fiction, fiction, picture books for all ages and abilities, and books for children with low literacy levels. Karen Sharkey, the Programme Development Librarian, and I had an engrossing discussion about cultural sensitivity. The charity also runs programmes aimed specifically at ensuring children have access to books, Children’s Book Corners in Tanzania and Kenya for example, and The Library in a Box scheme, launched in Zanzibar, and now rolling out more widely. They also provide training for teachers and librarians, and have recently produced Bringing Books to Life, a guide to running child friendly libraries.
There is a literary quiz in London on 8 September to fundraise for Book Aid International. Still just time to put a team together.