#bookgivingday in South Africa – a Guest Post

se7en, a mum of 7 children living in Cape Town, South Africa has been an active participant in #bookgivingday since its conception.  6 libraries. Yes, 6! libraries have been created thanks to her tireless efforts at this time of year. This is her story…

We are so excited that International Book Giving Day will be back with us next week. Every year for the past couple of years we have, with the help of our blog followers, created a library for children in desperate need of one. We started really small with a library for rural kids in Lesotho, and then a township school community library; a library in a community centre; a library for a school in need; and last year a library for a school with no books. Each year the project grows and each year book by book our blog followers from all over the world join us and donate books.

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One of the advantages of folk shopping online is that they can shop for books in one of our local online shops and so buy books for children in their own language. In a country with eleven official languages this is quite an advantage.

When you are creating a library for children with a unique background, it is critical that they get a wide variety of books to explore and some of those have to be books that they can relate to personally.

We ask folk to either buy or mail their gently used books to the school. We want the books to be in fabulous condition, a gift that shines and inspires. This is not the time to clean out your shelves and to get rid of all your old beaten up books, much as your children might have loved those ones. These children have very little that is good in their lives and the idea is that they are inspired by their book gifts.

Each gift of a book is so much more than “just a book” a book contains a dream and could be the thing that sparks a child to reach further and dream bigger.

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Last year we chose to help a school in one of Cape Towns most gangster ridden, high crime areas… an area where living conditions are desperate and unemployment the norm, and every kind of abuse and violence prevails in a culture of frustration. Children cannot play outside for safety sake, there are no lovely grassy patches to play on… school is really their safe haven. This school had made it onto the list of schools in most need and had been allocated new school buildings, with a large secure room in the centre of it, where children could turn to for safety when gang warfare got out control. This central building was chosen to be a library, and the walls had bookshelves around the edges. Unfortunately, the project funding stopped at that – there were no books to be found. How disheartening is that? A library with no books in it and a place where the children spent a lot of time together. We challenged our readers to fill the book shelves and over a period of a month or two and book by book the shelves were filled. Our followers went beyond the call of duty.

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To showcase the school and keep it top of our followers thoughts we blog about the project for a couple of weeks. We get to see the state of their present library as we begin the project and then ask teachers to interview the children. Do the children have a favourite book, or a favourite character, we ask then about their hopes and dreams… place they would like to visit. For many of these children, that live in the heart of the City of Cape Town, a city surrounded by the ocean, they have never been to the seaside and yet they can dream of exploring the world. How much richer would those dreams be if they were inspired by good stories. The life experience of the children is limited to what is immediately available to them and books could quite simply open up the world for them.

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There is a time during every project that we lose heart and think the books might not be rolling in fast enough and what if after all the promotion and the call for books none arrive. And yet somehow the books do roll in, one or two at time arrive and they slowly but surely become a library. Most of the books get delivered directly to the school, but friends dropping by tend to drop books off too and we pop them into boxes in the garage. Last year on delivery day we hauled all the boxes out of the garage and we took piles and piles of books across the city, well over a thousand books were delivered and shared with the children it was quite a magical experience, there were tears on both sides. I think the point is, a gift of one or two books really does add up to a library in a very short time and book by book we can change lives through an event like International Book Giving Day. We are so excited for International Book giving Day next week, when we will be launching our new library project.


Are you ready?

Generous people across the globe are gearing up for next Tuesday, #bookgivingday

Your stories are beginning to flood in, and we are overwhelmed – as always – by your wonderful stories of book giving.

Megan Daley (Children’s Book Daily), a most wonderful School Librarian in Queensland, Australia, has made sure her library is ready. Doesn’t it look inviting?

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In Walthamstow, UK, Geraldine Grandidier and Ruth Duncan are gift-wrapping their books ready for #bookgivingday – they even made the local newspaper. Read about them here.

The Village Cafe on Collins, (Queensland, Australia) has reported local children’s authors Celia Berrell, Diane Finlay, Kay Crabbe and Trude Trewin are getting ready.

Gibraltar are getting involved in a HUGE way for the first time this year, thanks to The Story Teller.

There are plenty of giveaways on Twitter – just search #bookgivingday

To be featured, remember to share your photos using #bookgivingday … we will find you!

In the meantime, don’t forget you can print and download these bookmarks to tuck into the books you plan to gift next Tuesday, 14th February.

How to Guide: Run a Successful Book Swap

It’s great to meet and collaborate with a company who have the same values and missions – Discover who are the brains behind the London Children’s Book Swap – are one such company. Not only did their Book Swap begin in the same year as International Book Giving Day, it’s also held at the same time. It was meant to be!

Enjoy their wonderfully insightful top ten tips on how to set up & run a successful book swap in your own city – these people know what they are talking about.

The idea is a simple one, bring books and swap them at a local venue. It creates a great way for families to meet and share whilst children review and pass on their reads to a new audience. The Book Swap is successful because it is easy for the smallest to the largest organisations to manage. It is financially low cost, resource light and a perfect arena to get organisations to form natural partnerships that could lead to other collaborations.

Discover’s London Children’s Book Swap began in 2012 with 13 venues participating and has now grown to 40 venues in 17 boroughs across the capital including family friendly arts and cultural venues, museums, galleries and libraries. Over 2000 books were swapped in 2014. This year we are expecting triple that number.

Discover's London Children's Book Swap.  Photography by Tim Mitchell

Photography by Tim Mitchell


“We came last year… we swapped a book, read it, then swapped it again!”

“What I liked best about today was getting new books for free.”

“What I liked best about today was giving books to new homes.”
– London Children’s Book Swap Participants 2014

Below are our top ten tips for creating a Children’s Book Swap for your city.

  1. Approach venues with a natural family audience or who are looking to develop one
    In your first couple of years, it helps to begin with venues that already have a family programme of activities and events so that they have an existing audience to which to promote. However this is also easily sold as an excellent light-touch strategy of developing a family audience.
  2. Cover a wide geographical area across your city
    If it’s possible, try to secure venues in different parts of your city to make it as accessible to as many children across the city as possible.
  3. Start small
    While you’re finding your feet, aim for 10 – 15 venues and grow from there, year-on-year. Give yourself a good lead time to get all of your venues on board.
  4. Schedule your book swap on a weekend or a day when school is out
    It sounds obvious, but you’ll give yourself a leg up by scheduling your book swap on a day when visitor numbers are already likely to be high. Discover’s London Children’s Book Swap always runs on the first Saturday of the week-long February Half Term school break.
  5. Have a starting stock of books at each venue
    There can’t be anything more enticing then a healthy pile of books to choose from when you arrive at a Book Swap venue. Start collecting books early – ask for donations from family, friends and colleagues but don’t be afraid to reach out to local book shops and publishers. Be sure to thank them publically on your social media channels and tag them in – they might not expect it, but they’ll appreciate the nod.
  6. Give your book swap a unifying brand
    It might just have to be a simple icon that you design yourself, but even still, it is important the public, and potential future participating venues, can identify that you are all supporting the same city-wide initiative. This will support the project’s reputation and help it grow.
  7. Offer free activities alongside your book swaps
    Venues may already have a family show or exhibition running on your book swap day, but it helps to have free activities that interact with your book swap. Examples of activities that have run alongside Discover’s London Children’s Book Swaps include book mark making, storytelling and illustration workshops.
  8. Use your local media
    Your local news outlets and papers will want their communities to know that their local venues are participating in such a worth-while city-wide event. ‘What’s On’ or ‘Going Out’ sections will want to know what’s happening and Children’s Book sections (such as that of the Guardian online) should be willing to support such an initiative. Also use social media to create an online community for your book swap before the day and as a tool for reaching out to relevant press and blogging contacts you might not already have.
  9. Give your book swap a legacy for years to come
    Branded book plates are a very popular way of getting children and families to engage with the books. Provide space to write at which venue the book was swapped and what the child liked about it. Brand the book plates with your logo, social media and/or website information. These book plates will not only act as a talking point for the book but also for where it came from and ‘what a great idea a book swap is – when’s the next one?!’
  10. Take stock of what you have achieved
    Ask each venue for feedback from their book swap visitors and participants as well as for feedback of how they, the venue, think the day went and what they think could be improved. Collect quotations and photos and capture those positive tweets and Facebook quotes. They’ll all be handy if you want to apply for funding for your next book swap.
  11. Pat yourself on the back… then start planning for next year!

Discover Children’s Story Centre is the UK’s first hands-on creative literature space for children aged 0-11 years and their families dedicated to generating a love of language, literature and stories. Based in Stratford, east London young Story Builders enter a labyrinth of environments designed to stimulate curiosity and imagination. Children cross the Trip Trap Bridge, delve into the Sparkly Forest, play in Polka Dot Sounds, explore the Story Garden and listen to stories in many different languages. We invite exciting artists from many disciplines: authors, illustrators, poets, musicians, visual artists, storytellers, puppeteers, photographers and film-makers to work with children and their carers to create new ways of telling and sharing stories. In the Story Studio artists and illustrators are invited to create immersive installations inspired by stories designed to feed children’s creativity and develop their storytelling and creative writing skills.

We offer a variety of programmes including schools workshops, family art activities, a literature programme led by children’s writers and illustrators, community and education projects, artist residencies in schools and training for teachers. Each year, over 100,000 people benefit from Discover’s programmes.

One of Discover’s main principles is encouraging the love of reading and books. Sally Goldsworthy Discover’s Joint CEO had the idea that this could happen through a pan London initiative, a London Children’s Book Swap.

Written by Julia Cameron & Racheal Brasier

Discover's London Children's Book Swap.  Photography by Tim Mitchell

Photography by Tim Mitchell




Are you planning a Book Swap? Are you now inspired to set one up? Seize the moment!! … and tell us all about it. Can’t wait to hear your plans.

The Book Bus

by David M. Gordon, Director of The Book Bus Foundation

The Book Bus aims to improve child literacy rates in Africa, Asia and South America by providing children with books and the inspiration to read them.

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One in six adults around the world have come through childhood unable to read and write, a situation mainly due to lack of books and opportunity to read. In response to this shocking situation, the Book Bus was founded with help get children reading. Our library work, book donations and assisted reading programme is helping strengthen the reading culture resulting in a more confident reading population that is better equipped for the future.

In 2008 the Book Bus began delivering books to schools in Zambia and mentoring children to read. Five years on and we have opened reading schemes in Zambia, Malawi, Ecuador and India where over 5,000 children now have easy access to hundreds of fabulous books that are relevant, fun and appropriate to their lifestyles. We look forward to continuing our reading schemes in 2013 with the aim of reaching a further 10,000 children by 2015.

How you can help the Book Bus

Help as a volunteer – Join the Book Bus Crew

Book Bus Volunteers are the backbone of our child literacy scheme, they inspire the children to engage with books through assisted reading, creative arts and plain old fun and games. If you enjoy working with children and can make the magic of a story leap off the page of a book then read on to see how the Book Bus can take you on the most rewarding journey of your life.  Each of our destinations offers its own unique attractions and whether you join us for 14 days or up to 4 months, your participation will transform a child’s life, and your own, for ever.

The Book Bus shoot

Help as a donor

Most children growing up in Africa, Asia and South America do not have books in their homes. This lack of affordable reading materials is the biggest barrier to reading and child literacy. The Book Bus distributes free books so that children can discover the joy of reading and become confident readers for life.

The Book Bus reaches over 3500 children per year. Your donation will help fund our campaigns to put children’s books into schools, libraries and homes.

Literacy in motion – keeping the wheels turning

The Book Bus fleet is what gets our volunteers and books out to the schools. These vehicles, their drivers and their volunteer crews put in heavy hours to reach remote schools and deliver our literacy support programme. We look after them well to ensure that we can maintain our service and continue to deliver into the future. Your donation will ensure that our 4 Book Bus vehicles are safe, well driven and well maintained.

For more information: www.thebookbus.org

Write to info@thebookbus.org

The Book Bus is a charity registered in England and Wales. No. 1117357

How to Organize a Storytelling Session

By Alice König, Book Aid International Community Ambassador

Alice König volunteers for Book Aid International as a community ambassador. As a community ambassador, König raises money for Book Aid International and promotes reading in her community. König became a community ambassador because she believes in the importance of Book Aid International’s work: “Books, literacy and education are so key to aid and development, and the work of Book Aid International not only changes lives — it has the power to change the future.” For more information about becoming a Book Aid International community ambassador, see Book Aid International’s website.

As a community ambassador, Alice König has raised money for Book Aid International in a variety of ways. Organizing a storytelling session is one way to both raise money and promote reading.

Alice Konig storytelling

Alice König leads a storytime session.

Children’s storytelling sessions are a wonderful way to share the joy of books and do a bit of fundraising at the same time.

To begin, choose an age group for you storytelling session. Will you aim the session at toddlers and pre-schoolers, five to eight-year-olds or older kids? Once you know who you are reading for, pick a theme; it might be Africa, Christmas around the world, tigers, space – anything you like. You might want to collect a few pictures, a map, or some toys or other props to help you introduce the theme at the start of the session. Let the children pass the objects around. Ask the children what they know about your theme. It is great fun to share ideas, and it warms them up for what’s to come.

Next, you will need to find some stories. Several short stories, which offer different perspectives on the theme, are always better than one or two long passages. You want to keep the children’s attention and give them plenty to think about. It is always best if you can find stories that kids have not read before. (There are plenty of book recommendations online as well as in bookshops. Your local librarian might have some good suggestions.) It is fun if you can get the children involved in some of the storytelling by giving them roles to play and taking along props or clothes to help them play their parts. Variety is important, so mix plain storytelling with acting stories out. You might even throw in a song or a poem or two.

Themed crafts following the storytelling are good for helping children think more about what you have been talking about. They might make Africa-themed bookmarks, Christmas tree decorations, rockets, animal pictures or something else. Build plenty of choice and decision making into the crafts you prepare so that children can innovate for themselves within the basic template.

Choosing a good venue and publicizing your event are both important. You might try approaching your local library to see if they would be happy to host your session. You might find a friendly local café that would be happy to host. The nicer the venue, the more likely it is that people will come. Cafés are an excellent option because they give the grown-ups a chance to relax and enjoy a cuppa. Put posters up in local schools and nurseries, but do not forget to advertise through social networking media too. Word of mouth is often the most effective way of publicising an event. Ask people to book ahead of time so you know how much craft material to prepare!

Finally, think about whether there are any child protection issues you need to consider. Does the host venue have public liability insurance? Will you allow parents to take photographs of the session? Will you expect parents to stay or leave their children in your care?