Goodreads Voice: African Library Project

By Goodreads Staff | Published Mar 05, 2012 03:45PM


Students in Lesotho enjoy their books from the African Library Project.

Children's book author Gail Carson Levine once described a library as "infinity under a roof." Yet in rural regions of sub-Saharan Africa, most children grow up without books. Even in classrooms 10 to 20 students share one book, or have no books at all.

The African Library Project hopes to change this statistic. The nonprofit builds libraries in Africa by connecting book drive organizers in the United States with African communities in need. To date, the ALP has helped set up 727 libraries in nine African countries—including Ghana, Botswana, and Malawi—with almost 750,000 books donated in total.

It's easy to join. Anyone can start a library in Africa with just 1,000 gently used books and $500 to cover shipping costs. The ALP suggests six weeks for a book drive and recommends the project to ambitious book clubs, community organizations, schools, and families!



Tags: 2012-march and do-good

Comments (showing 1-26 of 26) (26 new)

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message 1: by Claire (new)

Claire Great idea!


message 2: by doleary (new)

doleary or contact your local Rotary club if you have books to donate. March is Rotary Literacy Month. Clubs in our District (5030 - Puget Sound area of Washington State) are collecting books to send to libraries in Africa and India. US Rotary Clubs partner with clubs in the countries we are working with to make sure there are "boots on the ground" to assist with the distribution.
Our club also collects new and gently used board books throughout the year for HelathyStart - a program that works with young mothers to make sure they have books to read with their children.


message 3: by Jeannette Ann (new)

Jeannette Ann Avery How can the books be shipped for $500.00?


message 4: by Faith (new)

Faith Damask I think it's great to send money and books, etc. clear around the world, but I wonde why it isn't so exciting and desirable to send those very things into the many parts of this country where they are so badly needed.


message 5: by Jessica (new)

Jessica Donaghy If you're interested in domestic charities that focus on literacy and education, you can find many here:
http://www.goodreads.com/featured_lis...

"Do Good with Goodreads" features a new charity every month. We are based in the US, but our community is international, so we like to highlight groups doing good both at home and around the world.


message 6: by Faith (new)

Faith Damask Jessica, I appreciate your answer and the information you sent me. The world is our family and the more places we can do good, the better. I am glad to hear that the groups you highlight also do good at home, since we have great need for that help. Thank you.


message 7: by doleary (new)

doleary They can send them so cheap - because they probably send then bulk in large boxes on pallets.
Our Rotary Club also did a local literacy project where we provided books for prisoners. I believe we went through http://www.bookstoprisoners.net/
Your local shelter also has folks who are hungry for books...so many possibilities!


message 8: by Morgan (new)

Morgan We Give Books, a nonprofit organization, recently donated 2,000 books to the African Library Project and has many other campaigns to get involved in! It is a free website where you can read children's books online; every time you read one book, a book is donated to the campaign of your choice. It's free to sign up as well! http://www.wegivebooks.org/campaigns


message 9: by Rosie (new)

Rosie This is fabulous. Any idea if anyone has set this type of scheme up in the UK?


message 10: by Dara (new)

Dara Laporte An Open Book Foundation is a new Washington, DC nonprofit that takes children's authors and illustrators to schools where at least 50% of the children receive free or reduced price lunch. AOB then gives each child signed a copy of the author's book to take home. It is often the first book the child has ever owned. Today 275 children in 4th and 5th grade saw Christopher Paul Curtis, had a fabulous time, and then got signed copies of his book. Since Sept, 2011 we have given over 2500 books to children and school and classroom libraries. For more information go to anopenbookfound.org or our Facebook page.


message 11: by Tracey (new)

Tracey Bruckner This is fabulous! My daughter is going to start a book drive for her gold award project for girl scouts :-)


message 12: by Sonya (new)

Sonya Macey Sorry if this is naive but books in English being sent to countries where English is not one of the major languages seems odd. Doesn't it?


message 13: by Harriet (new)

Harriet Mcguire I recommend AfricaAccessReview.com to find good books on Africa for Children. See especially the annual Children's Africana Book Awards.


message 14: by Avi (new)

Avi BetterWorldBooks.com is a store that lets you buy used books and shipped around the world at a great price.. and each book you buy, they donate one.


message 15: by Susie (new)

Susie I would also like someone to address the issue of language - although it is my guess that English is becoming more common all the time in Africa, as it is in Europe and Asia. Also, just holding a book in your hands, especially one with great illustrations, is such a motivator to learn to read, in whatever language you can.

I'm also wondering if a smaller amount of books (and $ for shipping) can be combined with someone else's drive - I would like to pursue this with my book group, and/or my church mission committee, but I am not sure we could raise all the money and books to complete the 1000/$500 goal. I AM glad to learn that the $500 amount includes an estimate of $200 to ship the books via "media mail" with USPO to the warehouse in New Orleans, and then sending a check there for $300 for shipping costs to Africa. (For more details, click on "Start a Book Drive" - above.)


message 16: by Rosie (new)

Rosie Sonya wrote: "Sorry if this is naive but books in English being sent to countries where English is not one of the major languages seems odd. Doesn't it?"

English is widely spoken in Africa and is the primary language in many countries there. In Zambia there are over 70 dialects, but English is the first language. Books are very expensive and hard to come by.


message 17: by Rosie (new)

Rosie We visited Zambia in 2010 when our son was working with an organisation called Edusport. We stayed mainly in the capital Lusaka. I wanted to vist a school and Andrew took us to Chiwama See. The pupils have one exercise book and a pen. The library in the school consisted of several books stacked on a table top. The pupils were keen to learn and education is a way out of poverty - Zambia is the 11th poorest country in the world. As a result adult literacy levels are also poor.


message 18: by Preston (new)

Preston yes yes yes


message 19: by Shirley (new)

Shirley J I am greatful that Botswana is one of the countries being included. I worked there for 3 years. In comment to people wondering about English lang books being sent, even the village schools begin learning English in the Standards (grade school.) Basic language is good practice. More importantly,be cautious about the pictures and illustrations in the books. Nature, typical life, yes. Afluence, wealth, violence, please don't!


message 20: by Idamus (new)

Idamus Ooh, this is a great idea, I must see if we have something like this in Denmark


message 21: by Seawood (new)

Seawood Rosie wrote: "This is fabulous. Any idea if anyone has set this type of scheme up in the UK?"

We've used Pelican Post to send books to Africa recently - it is a different scheme in that schools list the books they'd like and you pledge to buy and ship them yourself. I liked this particular scheme as schools are then able to specify say, 20 books, of a set text so that the class can study the stories together. It made more sense to me than just collecting 2nd hand books of any kind which may not be age or culturally appropriate.


message 22: by Junebuggin (new)

Junebuggin Wonderful idea. I am hoping we can tie this project into our African-American read out program.


message 23: by Stacia (new)

Stacia Sonya wrote: "Sorry if this is naive but books in English being sent to countries where English is not one of the major languages seems odd. Doesn't it?"

The website specifically states that the libraries are set up in English-speaking countries. All of the countries in which they are active are former British colonies.


message 24: by Rosie (new)

Rosie Caroline wrote: "Rosie wrote: "This is fabulous. Any idea if anyone has set this type of scheme up in the UK?"

We've used Pelican Post to send books to Africa recently - it is a different scheme in that schools li..."


Thank you, it's a great scheme and I've signed up


message 25: by Chris (new)

Chris Jeannette Ann wrote: "How can the books be shipped for $500.00?"
It costs about $200 for book drives to get their books to a warehouse in New Orleans where the books are containerized. Then every book drive chips in $300 to cover the costs of shipping the sea containers to ALP's partners in Africa. It's a killer deal to be able to start a library in Africa for just $500 and 1,000 gently used children's books.


message 26: by Chris (new)

Chris Stacia wrote: "Sonya wrote: "Sorry if this is naive but books in English being sent to countries where English is not one of the major languages seems odd. Doesn't it?"

The African Library Project works in countries where English is the national language. There are 22 of these in sub-Saharan Africa. When these countries were colonized, the colonial powers made their languages the national language. Kids grow up speaking their native tribal language, but begin to learn English in school. They must take a rigorous test in English at the end of primary school to get into secondary school, so they are very eager to learn English.



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