Reading Between the Lines with Book Aid International

book aid international - african school

What really goes on at Book Aid International; a charity dedicated to working with partners around the world to deliver books to countries in need? We pay them a visit to find out more…


I love books. I love everything about books. And I’m fortunate enough to have grown up in the UK with unlimited access to every kind of book imaginable. But this is not the case for many children and adults in other parts of the world.

I wanted to understand more about what was being done to change this.

And so on Tuesday 5th May 2016, I went along to meet the team at Book Aid International; a charity dedicated to working with publishers, partners and fundraisers around the world to facilitate the delivery of new, donated books to libraries and schools in countries of need.

Learning about Book Aid International

I spent the first half of my time at Book Aid International picking children’s books to be shipped to Malawi, Africa, and got to meet a number of long-standing volunteers that regularly help out (all fellow bookworms I soon learned). Here’s the warehouse / library:

Book Aid

And here’s my picking trolley!

book donations

I later met with Book Aid International’s Head of Operations, Simon, who explained that the charity relies on book donations from publishers both large and small. They only take brand new books and the ideal scenario is that they’ll be sent a list of books to pick from, as many libraries and schools in Africa and other parts of the world can only usually take a few editions of each. A team of staff and volunteers, led by a qualified librarian, will hand-select books to be shipped.

book aid international donate

Book Aid International will usually arrange for the deliveries to be shipped – which is a significant cost in itself – with over 1 million books delivered every year, and shipments leaving the warehouse every 10 days or so.

book delivery

Once my tour of the warehouse and introduction to operations was over, it was upstairs to meet with the account team and talk about where books go and why.

Helping where help is most needed

“We’ve just shipped 30,000 books to Sierra Leone which is incredible, as it’s still very much a burgeoning country” – I was told.

When Ebola hit West Africa, naturally all schools were completely closed, so this shipment will go some way towards helping these communities rebuild now that the epidemic has been controlled.

ebola sierra leone

This post-conflict country can now receive some much needed support to help improve literacy rates amongst children and adults.

Book Aid International always tries to support areas where there is the most need; and most of their work goes toward helping African countries that feature low on the human development index.

Doing more in African schools and libraries

Book Aid International’s support goes beyond the shipment of books. The charity is currently appealing for funding in a bid to build 60 ‘Children’s Corners’ in African public libraries – the aim of which is to try and encourage children to spend more time reading by making the space in which they can read fun and engaging. As part of this funding, the charity is also looking to support the purchase of locally published books, some of which will be in local languages.  24 Children’s Corners are already welcoming young visitors every day and many more are currently in development.

book aid international - african school

Another programme underway is the ‘Inspiring Readers’ one; which aims to provide better reading opportunities for children in schools. Over the next four years, the charity aims to supply Book Box Libraries to 310 African primary schools, giving children the chance to develop their reading skills with brand new, age-appropriate reading materials. This programme also provides training for teachers in bringing books to life in the classroom.

These projects are so important, and will ensure sustainability within communities.

Last year, with the help of fundraisers, donators and partners, Book Aid International was able to support 2,624 libraries and reach over 24 million people.

How you can support

Did you know that it costs just £2 to get a book to a country in need? Every book counts and Book Aid International needs your support.

If you love reading as much as I do, you’ll want to pay attention to this. Did you know that when you next visit Amazon for a literary splurge you could be donating at no extra cost to Book Aid International? Ok so here’s how it works. You can get money off online orders at Amazon here, and by using these discount codes and ensuring you’ve chosen to support Book Aid International before you do, you’ll be raising money for them. There’s absolutely no catch. Find out more.

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