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Book Aid makes a real difference

31 May 2004

'If education is the road out of poverty, books are the wheels needed for the journey.'

Richard Crabbe, former chairman of the African Publishers Network

There are still 113 million primary school children in the world who are receiving no education at all. A remarkable charity, Book Aid International, has been providing books on a regular basis to help these children and their communities break out of the cycle of poverty. Over 50 years it has provided 26 million books to 30 of the world's poorest countries, mostly in Africa.

The charity's 'Reverse Book Club' supplies 4 books for £5 - and you never receive a single one of them! This ingenious idea means that a donation of £5 (around $9) a month would provide 48 books a year to readers in countries such as Ethiopia, Nepal and Sierra Leone.

Book Aid has been generously supported by publishers and direct book donations from them make up £2,868,000 ($5,257,000) of its last full year's income (with £1,248,000 ($2,287,584) coming in cash donations). The high value of book donations means that for every £1.50 ($2.75) cash donated, Book Aid can provide a book worth £4.70 ($8.61).

Some successful programmes include working in partnership with Malawi National Library Service to put books into 1,000 community resource centres; supplying books to refugees; and working with girls to increase their literacy in Sierra Leone. Books are supplied to libraries, hospitals and schools. In the longer run, Book Aid is working to support the growth of local publishing and bookselling, so that affordable books can be produced which reflect local languages and culture.

What kind of books does Book Aid want? Because of the relatively high cost of getting the books to their destinations, it's important that donated books are in good condition and exactly what they're looking for. There are clear guidelines on the website about this, but children's books, adult fiction and reference books are much in demand, along with the kind of vocational books and law student textbooks which most people are less likely to have at home. So the next time you clear out your shelves, remember Book Aid needs those books!

Book Aid