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.  

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Beep, beep! Here come Book Bus Matilda...

After a journey of more than 8,000 miles across the wide oceans, stunning desert landscapes and three country borders, Book Bus Matilda finally arrived at her new home in Malawi. 

The children of Mangochi welcome Matilda 

Over the next few years Matilda will be our mobile library bringing much needed books to children on our reading programmes. 

Our Book Bus literacy project moved to Mangochi in central Malawi in 2015. Located by the great Lake Malawi, it is an area with the highest illiteracy rate in the country with over 35% of the population unable to read. We aim to help to tackle this with literacy support programmes.

Our local project team has been delivering a reading and literacy programme to 100s of children every day… but without the use of an actual Book Bus. The local team used bikes, backpacks and their own leg power to walk to schools to bring the joy of reading to their local community.

Mike Masumba 
“Of course we were always welcomed by teachers and pupils alike,“ said Book Bus Project Manager Mike Masumba. “The children looked forward to our visit to read books and take part in all the activities we offer to help a child learn how to read. However sometimes the children asked why we were called the Book Bus. ‘Where’s the Bus?’ they’d ask inquisitively. We always said, “One day we will have a Book Bus in Mangochi – it will happen!” Mike said. 

And it did happen thanks to the generous people of Motovun – a consortium of European publishers. 

“We were keen to support a charity that promotes reading and the book, “ said Jean Arcache from Motovun.  “We all loved the work of the Book Bus as it is run by local teams, works in partnership with teachers and puts the book at the centre of learning for literacy", he concluded. 

Matilda always attracts a crowd! 
From the moment Matilda arrived, she’s had a big impact in the local area. Wherever the Book Bus goes, children follow, attracted by the wonderful Quentin Blake illustrations that adorn all of our Book Buses. 

“We hope that Matilda will get more and more children curious about books and reading,“ says Mike. “This way we will be well on our way to create a permanent reading culture in our community and help children become more independent and in control of their own lives as they grow up to become adults”. 

You can help keep our Book Buses on the road by adopting Matilda from as little as £5 a month. 

From the page to the waves - a broadcast from Puerto Lopez

Our pioneering Book Bus team in Puerto Lopez, Ecuador, are always coming up with new ways to engage locals with the world of books and learning. Their latest venture is a radio programme that encourages good educational habits, with a focus on children's reading.

The weekly programme is primarily aimed at parents, Arturo Rodriguez, Book Bus Project Coordinator in the region, explains. "We want to encourage them to read to their kids regularly. But also, the parents really enjoy it themselves." The programme features fun stories, as well as discussion and advice. It's already received glowing reviews and the team look forward to connecting more with locals through the airwaves.

But the creativity doesn't end there. Music has always played a big part in Book Bus activities, and the kids love it! So our talented Arturo, with the help of singer Sylvia Reilly, volunteers and locals, has created a song for the Book Bus, aptly called Love we Love. The video was filmed in Puerto Lopez and features a lot of friendly faces! Check it out here.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

A delivery service with a difference: Abel and Cole jump on board to help collect your books straight from home

The Book Bus has been a part of many wonderful partnerships over the years, and we’re happy to be working with the kind folks at Abel and Cole with their Big Book Collection specially run for the Book Bus. and Cole are an ethical food delivery service, bringing “boxes of organic brilliance to your door”. They’ve brought much health and happiness into homes across the UK, and now they’re working with us to help bring the same to our kids in Africa and South America.

In August and September, many of you filled your Abel and Cole box with children’s books for 3 – 6 year olds. The books collected will be donated to our Book Bus programs in Malawi, Zambia, Ecuador and right here in the UK.

From your home to theirs. There’s never been an easier opportunity to help out. Get in touch with any questions at

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

The Book Bus Holiday Reading Programme in South Luangwa, Zambia

The Book Bus team in South Luangwa are Raj and Monica from Zambia and Adrian and David from UK . They are on the road to schools and libraries in the area from 6th to 20th August and you can follow their adventures on this blog throughout the month.

Blog Post 1: Sharing your dinner with Elmer

There can't be many places in the world where the main threat to eating your dinner is a passing Elephant, South Luangwa is one of these places. Our base in South Luangwa is Croc Valley,  a camp placed on the river directly opposite the National Park. When you open your tent here in the morning you see Africa in wide screen. The savannah woodlands opposite the camp is primeval and at sunrise it emerges from the night as if the lights had been switched on, here live leopards, lions, giraffes, zebra and pretty much every other species for which Africa is famous. Nature provides this dramatic backdrop to a growing human population attracted to the area by opportunities in tourism and agriculture.

Every year the Book Bus runs a holiday programme to get children into books by promoting reading for pleasure. This year we are taking stories from around the world and localising the content to match the children's everyday lives, for example here we are surrounded by hippos with not a bear in sight!  This develops creativity and imagination in the children and improves their overall reading and writing skills. Week one of the project is underway and over 60 children are attending the programme every morning at our project base in Uyoba Community Library. Children from Pre School to Grade 6 are enjoying the books and activities that Book Bus George and his crew bring every day.

Arian is our storyteller par excellence and he kicked off the programme with a stirring rendition of "Have you seen Elephant?" followed by "The Lion Inside" and "How the Elephant got his trunk". Adrian was ably assisted by a menagerie of puppets and the children were soon squealing with delight. Part of our programme here is to share the techniques and methods we have developed with the library staff and local volunteers. This ensures that the programme continues after our departure.

So, where does Elmer come into all of this? Look carefully at the photo below for the tusks of the uninvited guest at our dinner table.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

A Perfect Partnership: working with the youth of Zambia

On a fateful day back in March, Kitwe’s Book Bus George met a special group of people at the Youth Day Exhibition at Copperbelt University. Like the Book Bus, the Piggy Bank Campaign—run by students at the university—was working towards aiding literacy and education in local school and communities. So wouldn’t it make sense for the two initiatives to work together?

Zambian Youth Day exhibition
“They had people, we had resources,” Monica Mulenga, Book Bus Country Director in Zambia explains. And thus a perfect match was made.

Fuelled by the mantra, ‘Your change can change lives’, the youth-run Piggy Bank Campaign raises funds to send Copperbelt University students to small underprivileged schools in the area. With them, the students bring their own laptops and a wealth of knowledge—IT skills, maths, engineering, economics, biology—to aid teachers in the classroom. Similarly, the Book Bus program in Kitwe relies on local volunteer power to visit schools Monday to Friday, reading and running arts and craft activities for the kids.

“The Book Bus has books, our bus George, and plenty of materials, but needs more people,” Monica elaborates. “Piggy Bank has plenty of students willing to volunteer, but lacks resources. So we work together to bring extra help and resources to the schools and communities.”

Piggy Bank Youth Group help with Book Bus reading sessions
In the first four weeks of working together, the partnership blossomed, engaging school kids in fun and educational activities every Friday. “We played games, danced to various songs and most important of all, read for and with the children. Parents and teachers took part in these activities too!” says Bwalya Caroline Chimba, Book Bus Kitwe Reading Coordinator.

The partnership has other benefits too. While the Piggy Bank initiative currently only has the capacity to visit schools on Friday, the Book Bus provides an extra opportunity for willing students to come help at schools on any weekday.

As well as providing support to teachers in classrooms, the Piggy Bank team also use their volunteer power to build community schools and classrooms in small villages.

Celebrating a perfect partnership 
“Education is the biggest weapon one can use to fight poverty. It is the silver bullet that both empowers the citizens and develops the country,” 

No-one can argue with that...