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Literacy Projects Inspiring Us This Week

by Lydia Cockburn || 12 January 2018

The Lion Who Wouldn’t Try – produced by bookdash volunteers

Imagine my surprise when – while browsing this week’s literacy news – I happened upon a video of Dolly Parton saying “Ay up mi duck”. The classic Midlands greeting seemed very odd coming from the mouth of the American country singer, but it soon transpired that it was all part of an endeavour to engage the people of Nottingham (UK) in her book gifting scheme, the Imagination Library.

The charity has already been running for several years, but came back into the Nottingham local news recently thanks to the efforts of city councillor David Mellen, who is aiming to raise £2018 for the project by reading aloud to 2018 local children this month.

The Imagination Library aims to regularly provide free books to children so as to nurture a love for reading from a young age which will in turn help to improve child literacy levels. Such interventions are much needed at present, according to the National Literacy Trust, who reported last month that 1 in 8 children from disadvantaged backgrounds in the UK did not own a single book. Their investigation also found that children who did not own books had far worse literacy levels compared to their peers. Even if this correlation is unsurprising, it serves to illustrate the potential power of schemes like Dolly’s.

When reading about the Imagination Library, I was reminded of another fantastic project that I discovered on a recent trip to Cape Town: bookdash. This organisation also has the aim of distributing books, mainly to South African children, for whom limited access to reading material is an even more extensive issue. This initiative goes a step further by having creative professionals volunteer to create original bookdash books from scratch in 12-hour sessions. As such, they reduce production costs and are able to reach a larger number of children than they otherwise would.

What is really striking is the quality of material that can be produced in such a short time. The finished products are beautiful storybooks, some of which we are hoping to make available on our Easyread system in the near future. We’re excited to help spread the word globally about this organisation, which, as well as doing great things for literacy in South Africa, serves as an inspiring reminder of the power of human creativity and collaboration (and a strict deadline!).

Such initiatives are a great source of hope and inspiration for the literacy world, for children, and for us all as we embark on our own creative projects. So, in the spirit of Dolly, I’m going to go and pour myself a cup of ambition (coffee) and get to work on our Easyread mission of making learning to read easy for anyone, anywhere.