project. The newly opened Children’s Corners are making a huge
difference to library services in Africa and, in some, we have seen
user numbers increase fourfold. The combination of a vibrant
space for children, new and relevant books, and librarians who are
trained to work with young people makes for a place where a love
of books and reading can start to develop.” And, she adds: “The
Open Doors project has got off to such a positive start that we
are now looking at ways in which we can build on the original
model, such as exploring digital components and increasing
outreach programmes in the beneficiary libraries.”
Last year, Book Aid International ran a digital pilot in three
established Children’s Corners in Kenya, to explore ways in
which digital content could complement printed books. Each
of the Children’s Corners (Meru, Isiolo and Kisumu) received
30 tablets and e-readers, preloaded with educational content
and content in local languages. Librarians attended training
that covered helping children get to grips with the tablets, as
well as how to use these resources to reach children who
might not otherwise be able to make the most of the library,
such as children with special education needs.
The pilot has proved successful in these libraries and Book Aid
International is now ready to roll this programme out to more
Children’s Corners, beginning with five libraries in Uganda later
this year. “We believe in the power of the written word in all its
forms, and this digital pilot has been really important in building
up our knowledge of how a digital element can go hand-in-hand with more traditional printed books,” says Book Aid
International Project Manager and Trainer Judith Henderson.
“We are excited to be able to offer children not only more
access to a wide variety of content, but also ways of developing
IT skills, which will set them up better for the future.”
The first Open Doors Children’s Corner in Cameroon was opened
in November 2014 in Limbe City Council Library. Before the
project, there was a space for children in the library, but it was
cramped, uninspiring and had a small collection of old books.
In 2014, the library received more than 2,500 new children’s
books donated by UK publishers, as well as a grant to purchase
locally published books. Another grant also helped the library
to provide a range of practical and comfortable children’s
furniture, colourful murals on the walls and educational
toys. The library is now an engaging and exciting space for
children to develop a love of reading.
Lizette, a primary school teacher in Limbe, says: “I would
like to thank you for these books, they are going to go a long
way. I am so happy for what I have seen today and I will
make time in our school schedule to visit the library.” ■
If you want to find out more about Book Aid International’s Open Doors
programme, visit www.bookaid.org/opendoors.
Children enjoy a reading activity in Bonna Baana Children’s Corner, Uganda
Children enjoy their new Children’s Corner in Mamfe, Cameroon
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