Saturday, 17 February 2018

Being a teenager reading volunteer

"It really challenged my comfort zone, it allowed me to come home and really appreciate all the small things in life and all the opportunities that we are lucky to receive." Read 17 year-old, Siena's experience of her time as a volunteer reader with the Book Bus. 

Siena with some of Zambia's eager readers! 

"During the summer of 2017, I spent two weeks in Zambia volunteering for the Book Bus. The charity works in various countries around the globe, encouraging children to go to school and enabling them to expand their education. The Book Bus aims to improve child literacy rates in Malawi & Zambia by providing children with books and the inspiration to read them.

My experience with the Book Bus was one of the most inspirational but also heart breaking, seeing the children in their environment, and getting an insight into a small part of their lives. These children are so eager to learn and read, but due to a lack of funding and resources, they cannot carry out daily activities in school that we take for granted.

Visiting two community schools and one government school, the difference in the learning standard and the facilities these children are able to use is astounding. The children are always so happy, full of smiles, enthusiastic to read and absolutely love the activities the Book Bus provides for them.

Volunteers  join the Book Bus  and work with the local Zambia team in the mornings visiting schools and holiday clubs. In the afternoon, we also visited local libraries to have 1 to 1 reading with the students to give some extra learning and reading time.
Engaging children with great stories

Touching my heart 

Since coming back  to the UK I have stayed in contact with one of the schools, which has given me the opportunity to see what the students are getting up to. I have also been able to fundraise for this amazing charity through using Just Giving, where all the money is donated towards resources and facilities for different activities, such as reading books, arts and craft materials, musical instruments, atlases etc.

Even though this experience was completely different to anything I have experienced before, and it really challenged my comfort zone, it allowed me to come home and really appreciate all the small things in life and all the opportunities that we are lucky to receive. It really does put life into a completely different perspective seeing such positivity in the children of Zambia.
The people in Zambia have really touched my heart, and are some of the happiest and friendliest people I have had the pleasure to meet and spend time with. The two weeks I was there was filled with many different emotions, through getting to know certain students better than others and working with the most amazing and professional team.

I would not change my experience for the world, and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute." 

Spend 2 weeks this summer helping children to read. Find out more 

Friday, 16 February 2018

Family volunteering in Zambia

Toby and Sabine are a son and mum team who volunteered with the Book Bus in Livingstone during 2017. 

The daily story time sessions with Toby,  Sabine & children

Aged nine, Toby is one of our youngest volunteers. Mum, Sabine had heard about the Book Bus several years ago, but decided to wait until Toby was a little older and felt ready to participate fully. And that is just what he did. He helped deliver reading sessions in schools, as well as getting involved in the planning of reading sessions along with other volunteers. As a child, Toby could identify with many children on our projects as well as being a reading role model. Toby’s enthusiasm for reading was something he was able to share with the children he met, and he feels one of his achievements was to help make reading more fun for the children. We absolutely agree!

Out of your comfort zone: Meeting elephants on the way to school
Sabine has a professional background in literacy and art, and has delivered music and drama workshops in schools, experience which she put to good use in planning and delivering sessions for the Book Bus. As Sabine pointed out, “Flexibility is essential, especially when helping to run the reading holiday clubs in Zambia  as numbers of children who might turn up is hard to predict. There were occasions when groups of children grew dramatically in size as the session went on, so I really had to think on my feet!. 

“Spending quality time together in such a different environment, and working together, a little out of everyone’s comfort zone, can lead to families learning a lot about each other,”

“I was impressed at how the Book Bus is aiming to make a sustainable difference, so that volunteers’ experience and expertise is shared and used to empower the local team. I was happy to share many  ideas about staff development with the Zambian team,” said Sabine. 

We asked Sabine and Toby what they felt they had got out of the experience, and something they both mentioned was learning about how people live in other parts of the world. 
“It is one thing to read or watch TV about people living in difference countries,” they said “but to physically be there and meet the children, and be part of the Book Bus’s work to help children read is far more powerful. The children were really eager to learn and make the most of their opportunities” they agreed. 

Toby felt strongly that he wanted to help children elsewhere in the world to succeed in life. He particularly enjoyed the one-to-one reading sessions that the Book Bus volunteers ran in the afternoons in local libraries. 
The perfect travel & Book Bus buddies

Volunteering as a family was something both Sabine and Toby wanted to try, though they felt a little apprehensive as to how they would cope. As soon as they arrived at the Book Bus project in Livingstone, they realised it was a great idea, and Sabine watched Toby getting stuck in, coping well with a new environment, and gaining in confidence as he led some of the warm up songs and games that always started the Book Bus reading sessions. They really enjoyed working together, and reckon they are perfect travel buddies. 

“Spending quality time together in such a different environment, and working together, a little out of everyone’s comfort zone, can lead to families learning a lot about each other,” concluded Sabine. 

Will they do the Book Bus again? They both said …”yes!”

Can you share your skills & help engage more children in books? Find out more 

The returning volunteer

Librarian, Adrian Thompson volunteered in Zambia in 2017, his 4th time with the Book Bus. Book Bus volunteer, Carol Williams caught up with Adrian recently for a chat and to ask him, what keeps him coming back for more? 

Adrian & Edward read with children  
“I especially appreciate the overall excellent organisation of the Book Bus and the level of support both in the UK and overseas which is invaluable both for seasoned volunteers like myself and new volunteers,” Adrian said.   
“The Book Bus team make the whole experience of volunteering work brilliantly, with their organisational skills and knowledge of the local area, and of the Zambian education system. There is a real exchange going on, between Project Co-ordinator, Bwalya and the Book Bus Zambian team supporting volunteers, and at the same time sharing ideas from volunteers who join the project. I worked alot with local BB team member Edward & we shared many ideas to help engage local children in reading,“ he added. 

Adrian spoke positively about the way volunteers worked as partners with local teachers, classroom assistants and the Book Bus team gaining skills and ideas that can be used to develop engaging reading sessions for children in the future.  

“This can be particularly valuable,” continued Adrian, “as there are many differences between schools in Zambia and the UK– classes of 60, no computers (sometimes even no electricity) and lack of resources means that teaching can be challenging, but everyone values the new ideas that volunteers bring. This is what makes the Book Bus’s impact a long lasting one, lasting well beyond the time each volunteer spends in Zambia.” 

Be part of the local community 

Adrian emphasises the difference between visiting somewhere like Livingstone in Zambia (where the current Book Bus project is based) as a tourist, where you may only meet local people as hotel staff and tour guides, and the Book Bus experience, which allows you, for a short time, to become part of the local community. On a previous Book Bus visit, in South Luangwa, Adrian and the volunteer team visited the local Rotary Club, and met some interesting people who gave a whole new insight into the area. 
Making reading fun

“Some people obviously volunteer with friends or family,” suggested Adrian, ‘but if, like many others, you are travelling alone, you have a ready-made group of colleagues to work with, and also to spend free time with.”

Experience of working with children is in no way essential for Book Bus volunteering, but Adrian’s day job as school librarian in a UK primary school definitely gave him valuable skills and confidence. 

You only had to see him story-telling with puppets, or leading a group of 5 and 6 year olds around the playground on a bear hunt, to appreciate that.  But it is the variety of skills that volunteers bring that makes the whole team work well together, and skills, enthusiasm and experience are shared to good effect. An interest in children and a love of books are what all volunteers have in common.

Explore Zambia & go on safari 

On his Book Bus trips, Adrian has always made the most of opportunities to explore the area. Like many volunteers he stayed on after his time with the Book Bus to explore Zambia and other parts of Southern Africa. Weekends can be spent on a safari in Botswana, and after a morning working at school, you can go on an afternoon safari drive, or take in the Devil’s Pool at Victoria Falls. It's a fascinating part of the world with so much to do and explore.  

And will Adrian return again for a fifth trip? His answer was an absolute yes!

Our volunteer reading project runs from 13th August to 7th September 2018. Places are limited for 2018. Find out more 

Friday, 2 February 2018

Bookish fun with the Book Bus in Zambia

Having spent her life in the world of books, recent librarian retiree, Carol Williams joined us for lots of bookish fun as a reading volunteer in Zambia during 2017. Read Carol's story...

Sharing stories from around the world  

“ Sitting in the back of an open sided converted safari truck, blown around by the wind, we watched Zambian street life as we passed by and exchanged waves with enthusiastic children and parents.  It was the beginning of my three weeks as a reading volunteer aboard Book Bus Charlie. 
I had heard about the Book Bus several years ago, but having recently retired, now was the time to get up and go. The charity’s aim is ‘to improve child literacy rates by providing children with books and the inspiration to read them’, and volunteers, working alongside Book Bus staff, are the key to making this happen. I felt that my skills from years as a school librarian would be a good fit.

So, I packed my bags and flew to Livingstone in Zambia, near Victoria Falls in August 2017. We were staying at the Waterfront Campsite, where the Book Bus had its own area with safari style tents. The Project Coordinator was Bwalya Chimba who was supported by her wonderful Book Bus team.  Bwalya was an inspiration, calm and efficient, always there, coping with anything that needed sorting without fuss, but with a wicked sense of humour. 

Meeting elephants en route

On a typical day we would be up early for breakfast at 7am, and travel in Book Bus Charlie to start work in school at 9am, running two sessions with groups of children. The school might be in a suburb of Livingstone, or more rural, in which case we might pass zebra, elephants and impala en route. There are 72 languages spoken in Zambia, but English is the key to getting on, so we used mostly picture books in English, with one of the Book Bus Zambian team on hand to help with translate when necessary.

In Zambian schools, children from around eight years of age upwards are taught all their subjects in English so getting to grips with the language really helps the children achieve the maximum from their education. Known as reading volunteers, we would read to a group of enthusiastic children looking at the text, followed by a craft activity. The children love taking home something they have made, whether it was a patchwork Elmer, a lion mask, or a dancing giraffe. I had to get quite creative quite quickly - not my natural talent maybe, but as volunteers we all learnt from each other, and I often surprised myself! 
Creating artwork around book characters

The afternoons were a mix of preparation for the next day and visiting local libraries to offer one-to-one reading sessions. At Zwelopili, a small school in a deprived area of Livingstone, this involved queues of 100 or more excited children waiting their turn to read.  This school, built by the Book Bus in 2015, has no water or electricity, and just one classroom. Part of the school is a much-loved library known as the Reading Room. It is looked after by two dedicated Book Bus staff, Claudia and James, who keep it looking smart and welcoming, organise reading sessions, and lend books to children. 

Making an impact

My lasting impressions from the trip are all to do with the people. Inspirational adults have set up and run schools in deprived areas, getting money to improve them from wherever they can. Enthusiastic children keen to learn is a bit of a cliché, but it was true. At schools it sometimes appeared chaotic, but there were no 'discipline' issues, and children would put their all into the work they did. It really is true that we in Europe sometimes need to appreciate what we take for granted: education, libraries, easy access to IT. The Book Bus is obviously well respected, making a real impact in Zambia. 
Book Bus Coordinator, Bwalya summed up the positivity in her comment on reading: 

“Imagine a world without books; when you read, your adventure is on, so if you can’t read, you’re missing out on so much. Open a book and go on that adventure!”

Will I go back again? Try stopping me!"

Join us in 2018 in Zambia. Share your skills and help more children have fun with books and learn to read.
Our Livingstone reading project is open 13th August to 7th September 2018. 

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Quentin Blake's magical art inspiring Book Bus children to read

“It’s a real privilege to be associated with the Book Bus promoting literacy in Africa and South America,” declared world-renowned children’s illustrator and Book Bus Patron, Sir Quentin Blake in a recent interview with us at the Book Bus. 

Book Bus Patron Sir Quentin Blake 
“I think that the Book Bus does amazing work, introducing books to children in remote areas of the world where there are few or no books at all. Can you imagine that? Growing up in a world without books?” asked Quentin.

Our Book Bus mobile libraries are a central part of our literacy programme, sharing books and other literacy resources with children, schools and communities in remote areas of Ecuador, Malawi and Zambia. Quentin’s illustrations adorn each of our Book Buses ensuring they make a huge visual impact with children as they roll into schools, open areas in the African bush and along mountain roads in South America. 
The children welcome Book Bus Charlie 

"Can you imagine that? Growing up in a world without books?” 

 “One day the founder of the Book Bus and my then editor, Tom Maschler, asked if I could illustrate the very first Book Bus,” continued Quentin. “I had been creating illustrations for books for years but nothing as large as a bus. I was delighted to contribute to such a magnificent project.” 

“It was such a brilliant idea to decorate the Book Buses,” exclaimed Quentin. “I realised that many children probably didn’t have access to books so I wanted to create illustrations that would ignite their imagination, be fun and colourful and convey the pleasure of reading.”

Sir Quentin creating wonderful illustrations
And he certainly achieved that. Quentin created an array of spectacular colourful illustrations to decorate our 5 Book Buses, George, Matilda, Alfie, Tiger and Charlie named after Roald Dahl characters. Each piece conveys movement, gestures, atmosphere and a great sense of fun. It’s almost as if each character has their own story to tell. 

Quentin’s illustrations include a book cart packed full of children engrossed in reading, a young child lost in the adventure of their book as they hitch a ride on an elephant and a young girl reading a story with an inquisitive lion sitting behind her (is he listening to her story or eyeing up his lunch the children ask when they study the illustrations on the side of their Book Bus!).
As we rolled out our additional literacy programme in Ecuador, Quentin created new illustrations including a giant tortoise and an Alpaca.   

Sir Quentin's illustrations spark imaginations
Quentin continued: “No one starts their lives being able to read, but very quickly as children we make sense of the world around us by looking at shapes and colours.”

“If you can get children engaged first in illustrations, their curiosity will lead them to then enquire about the words. Reading comes very soon after this.”

“What struck me about the with the Book Bus and its supporters,” added Quentin “is that they are providing books to children to help them develop essential literacy skills. They are sowing an extraordinary crop that is going to have a harvest that will go on and on for these children for the rest of their lives. It's providing much more than just literacy - it’s opening a door to the future in an incredible way.”
"The Book Bus is providing much more than just literacy - it’s opening a door to the future in an incredible way.”

“Once you spark curiosity – well that’s like a machine that creates its own energy and if you can get books to these children, sit with them, talk to them, read with them and develop that enthusiasm for reading, then you really don’t know what wonders that will lead to in the future,” Quentin added.

Special illustrations for the readers of Ecuador
“I’m so proud of the work the Book Bus does and I’m deeply touched to be involved with this wonderful project.  It’s been around for more than 10 years now and I have no doubt it will be around for many more years. The effects of the Book Bus does, and will last much longer and go much, much further that even we can imagine” Quentin concluded.

In 2016 Sir Quentin launched our latest and boldest literacy project I am a Reader. We want to get 10,000 children in Malawi and Zambia reading by 2020. If you believe that all children should have an opportunity to learn how to read, join our campaign. 

Sunday, 26 February 2017

With a little help from our friends...

There are many wheels that keep the Book Bus community chugging along with delivering inspiring books for the 1000s of children on our literacy projects in Zambia and Malawi.  Not least of these are our friends at the National Police Aid Convoys (NPAC), the generous organisation that help us transport shipments of books over to Zambia every year.
NPAC deliver aid globally

The volunteer organisation NPAC was started by a group of serving police officers back in 1993, who decided to use their community influence and negotiating skills to deliver humanitarian aid to places that other NGOs couldn’t reach. These days, the hard-working group continue to provide emergency and development aid all over the world—including helping to  transport around  20- 30 containers of books to our Book Bus communities in Zambia each year. The organisation was recently awarded the Points of Light Award by PM Theresa May for their outstanding volunteer work.

We are honoured and delighted to be partners with the NPAC, and David Scott, the Head of the organisation, reiterates the importance of our partnership.

“People trust the police,” he says jokingly, though the sentiment rings true. “The influence of the NPAC means we can form good relationships in the community and get aid to where it is needed.” 

He goes on to commend the importance of the Book Bus. “Books are rare in Zambia. In fact they are like gold!” David says. 

The 9-tonne book shipment bound for  Zambia 
For the past 2 years the Book Bus has been working with NPAC transporting much needed books to our literacy projects in Livingstone, Kitwe and Mfuwe in Zambia. Our latest shipment left the UK in February  and is due to arrive in Zambia in the Spring. 

The 9-tonne shipment will deliver 1000s of much needed books to schools, libraries and direct into the hands of our book-loving children. Many people are involved in this epic task. Being able to read will ensure children get more out of their education, and helps them reach their full potential. It's difficult to learn how to read without access to books and that's where these much needed books are of great value. 
Inspiring books delivered for children to read 

With the help of the NPAC, the Book Bus looks forward to continuing to bring the joy of reading to communities in Zambia, powered by the hearts and hands of the many volunteers who contribute to the work of the NPAC. The Book Bus is very grateful to David and his team at NPAC for the work they're doing in helping change children's lives one book at a time...

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Writing their names with pride

Stella Msosa
We can never anticipate the ripple effects one of our reading programmes might have on a local community. What started as a Book Bus reading programme for 80 children  – inspired 60 women to empower themselves to learn how to do something we all take for granted – how to sign their own names.

“The women had never learnt to read and write. In some communities this is not seen as important for women,” says local Nasenga teacher Stella Msosa.

40% illiteracy 

Adult illiteracy in Mangochi, Malawi, the area where our Book Bus literacy project is based, is around 40%.  It’s disproportionally women that are illiterate and this impacts on their lives in a negative way every day.  

For example said Stella, “To access basic health care, forms need to be read and a signature is required. Many women never went to school, married at 14 and spent most of their lives having, and bringing up children. This meant many local women were unable to read forms or sign their own name and had to pay another member of the community to do this for them – money they could not afford to give”, explained Stella.

"We too wanted to learn how to read"
The Book Bus has been working with children in Stella’s primary school, known as Nasenga in Mangochi for almost two years, supporting teachers with our ‘I am a Reader’ literacy programme. Sharing books with inspiring stories is key to getting children engaged in books. 

The children went home to the village each week, excited by stories they had heard at their Book Bus sessions. This ignited the women’s curiosity and many visited the school to hear their children read for the first time. 

"I was so proud hearing my daughter read" 

Women like 38 year old Josephine Simba. “I married very early and now have 10 children. My daughter was learning to read through the Book Bus programme at her school. I watched her as she picked up a book and began to read. I was so proud. I then decided that I must learn how to read myself. That’s when some of the women approached Stella at the school to see if she could help,” she explained. 

Women attended classes for 12 months 
Over the next 12 months Stella ran literacy classes once a week for the women. The Book Bus supported the programme with books, pens, paper and chalk. One year later, the women can now write their names and many have also started reading. 

“It’s wonderful to see and be part of,” says Stella. “It’s never too late to learn how to read and I’m now hoping more women join us so they too can learn how to read and become more independent”.

The ripple effects 

The Book Bus provided literacy support
“We always measure the impact of our reading programmes with children, says Book Bus project worker, Marian Forkin “However it’s a real joy to hear how the ripple effects of some programmes impact on lives way beyond the classroom to empower women in some of the world’s poorest communities, We're all very proud to have been part of this programme,“ she concludes.

Find out more about the Book Bus "I am a Reader" programme.