Logo Stiftung Lesen

Supported by

Logo Goethe-Institut

Logo Deutscher Bildungsserver

Logo Lesen in Deutschland

Education Worldwide

Collecting Books for African Libraries

The UNESCO estimates that 38 percent of adult Africans are illiterate. In many sub-Saharan African countries, literacy rates are below 50 percent. However, literacy is at the core of education and basic skills needed to meet the challenges of life. But many schools – especially in rural ares – do not have a library. Also, many students do not have access to books or own books. African school teachers teach subjects such as mathematics or English from memory as they do not have books or printed teaching material available as a resource.

While traveling with her family in Southern Africa in 2004, Chris Bradshaw, coming from a country where many used books land on a landfill, recognized the lack of libraries and developed the idea of establishing libraries in African schools and communities. Back at home in the United States, she started collecting books and sent them to a community in Lesotho which she got to know during her travel and that expressed the wish to establish a library. Bradshaw then began to initiate local book drives in the United States and started fo find local partners in Africa. This has been the start of the African Library Project.

The African Library Project coordinates book drives in the United States and in the Canadian southern parts run by schools, churches, corporations, organizations of all kinds as well as individuals. The goal of each book drive is to collect 1,000 books, gently used and in good condition and according to strict guidelines, as well as USD 500 for shipping costs. Each book drive is matched with a specific African library. Thus, the collectors are able to collect books specifically dedicated for a preschool, primary school, secondary school or community library.

The book drive volunteers sort and ship the books to American warehouses. Then, the African Library Project ships the books by overseas to a regional African partner organization which collects the container from the sea port and brings the books to the targeted school library.

Partners in Africa are African NGOs such as the RISE network in Sierra Leone, African governments such as the Botswana Ministry of Education, or the U.S. Peace Corps. Each partner organization develops and supports a network of several dozens libraries throughout the country. The receiving communities must provide space, shelving and staff.

Since 2005, the African Library Project has established or expanded almost 1,000 libraries and has shipped more than 1,000,000 books to sub-Saharan African countries that require children to read and write in English in order to complete their secondary school education.

Watch this video about an African head teacher using African Library Project books.

(Photo: Lesley Louden)