Library For All specialises in providing books to communities where poverty, history or remoteness prevents access to traditional libraries. We’re about to kick off a new collection that will see our books journey further than ever. Books That Travel is set to change the way we work - and perhaps the way you read to your kids!
The story so far
Over the past few months, our target program area has been Papua New Guinea. We’re proud to have worked with PNG authors to create over 100 diverse, locally-relevant ebooks for kids - with around 150 more titles in production! This means kids can learn to read using books with characters who look like them, having adventures in landscapes they recognise. There's nothing quite like seeing the look on a child’s face the first time they read these unique stories. Our books are made by the community, for the community.
We’ve written before on this blog about the importance of a library made up of ‘mirrors’ and ‘windows' ; that is, opportunities for kids to see their own life experiences reflected in stories, as well as having the chance to look out and discover the rest of the world. But kids in developing communities tend to have far more windows handed to them; they get used to reading stories about ‘other kids’ (if, in fact, they have access to any books at all). That’s why we are big believers in helping communities create more ‘mirrors’. But we’ve also identified a need for a collection that sits somewhere between the two spaces.
An exciting new chapter
Books That Travel is a new book series, currently in development, to be embraced by anyone, anywhere. A completely free library of quality, diverse books for young readers EVERYWHERE!
Our primary agenda is addressing the global literacy challenge in any way we can. Our team is currently researching expansion into 7 new countries, some of which have no books at all to build a library with. When we build a library from scratch, it takes 7 months for the first books to hit the shelves. The Books That Travel collection ensures we have a ‘go-to’ starter set of books for future culturally-specific libraries. If a community asks to partner with us, we can press Go for them immediately. Their kids can start reading a beautiful collection of international stories, while we take the time we need to research and identify local authors and kick off locally-relevant book production in response to their unique needs. .
In April we launched our digital library in 2 PNG pilot schools, with 4 more to come in July. The whole library will soon be available, free of charge, to anyone in PNG with a smart device via our app. What’s more, we have worked with partners to distribute 18,500 print copies of our books across PNG. This is a HUGE achievement - and feedback from schools and community groups has been overwhelmingly positive...but the PNG library has been over a year in the making.
Imagine the benefits when we can hit the ground running with a collection of awesome cross-cultural books, while we build up a series of culturally-relevant titles. That’s a whole lot more kids reading RIGHT NOW.
A book that travels: Sharks by Micah and Norah May can be read by anyone, anywhere.
So, what are books that travel?
Books That Travel is a subset of our dynamic, diverse library aimed at every young reader. It is a ‘global library’, full of stories that are pan-national and widely accessible.
Think of Books That Travel as easy-going tourists. They move around the world respectfully. They learn the local language. They pop on a backpack, jump on the train and fit into any new community without standing out as ‘foreign’. They are relatable. They don’t make anyone else feel less or different. Picture bright, colourful early readers about animals or family life; or engaging non-fiction about topics of cross-cultural interest, like the weather, or farming, or marine creatures. Whilst it’s naive to think that any story is completely ‘universal’ these books will be accessible to a vast majority of readers - many of whom will only ever have read ‘foreign’ books. Whilst not strictly mirroring a child's local experience, these windows shed light on engaging, general interest topics, rather than tales unfolding worlds away, in places the reader may never visit.
Every child has a right to read, and every child has a right to feel that they are at the centre of the action. But it takes time to make connections with local writers, conduct workshops in country to encourage more community members to share their cultural stories, and to then convert those stories into lively, engaging books for kids. Those ‘mirrors’ are extremely valuable, and we will continue to prioritise them, but we don’t want any keen readers to sit ‘on hold’. Books That Travel are ready to go, passport in hand, so no one needs to wait for a chance to read.
20 Busy Little Ants by Robyn Cain is culturally neutral and easy to translate.
Come with us on the journey
The Library For All Books That Travel series is now in production, but we need your support to help it grow! If you like the idea of a freely available digital library that encourages more kids to read, you can help us by donating. If you have a great idea about ways that we might work together, we’d also like to hear from you.