Worldreader Blue Box Brings 7500 Digital Books to South Africa
Every Worldreader Blue Box e-reader launch is important to us. It’s even more special with a partner that embraces the importance of literacy and access to books as we do. One of those partners is The International Book Project (IBP), a non-profit promoting literacy and education through the distribution of books, who turned to Worldreader to work with digital books for the first time. Kristen Svarczkopf, IBP Executive Director, reflects with us on the launch of their first Worldreader E-Reader Program at the Bakubung Economic Development Unit (BEDU) Community Library in Ledig, South Africa in October 2014. BEDU Community Library received 7,500 e-books that will be available to 33,000 local residents and six schools within walking distance of the Library:
Why did International Book Project choose to send digital books through Worldreader instead of paper books?
Typically, the International Book Project sends more than 200,000 paper books annually to schools, community organizations, and libraries all over the developing world. But, we knew that to keep pace with changing global educational standards that we would need to diversify our delivery methods to support shipments of e-readers and e-books. With a huge digital library and expertise in monitoring and evaluating e-reader projects, Worldreader was an exceptionally capable partner.
What reaction did you receive from the community and students at the Launch?
I had an idea about what to expect during the training and community launch for International Book Project’s first e-reader project in Bakubung, South Africa, but what I underestimated was how insatiably the participating students would devour the books on their e-readers.
How did the young patrons receive the new technology?
The young students’ confidence levels have increased since they’ve started with the e-readers. The Grade 7 and 8 students had never before used any electronic equipment except maybe a mobile phone. After a few training sessions, they were teaching their parents how the e-reader worked and were so eager to come over to read every day after school!
How did the students react to the e-readers at training?
Eager to move along in their training, the students would voluntarily request a “check!” by holding up their device so the instructor would give them the green light to move on to the next task. In just a short two or three days, the students were experts on using their devices and talking amongst themselves about the books that they were reading.
In fact, at one point I asked Joan Mwachi (Worldreader’s Kenya Senior Operations Manager and Trainer) if the level of noise in the room was too much. Shouldn’t it be silent in the room while the students are reading? She explained that the talking was great news! She said, “The fact that they are talking is great because it means they are learning. They are excited about what they are reading and want to share those new ideas with their friends and classmates.”
Since the e-readers arrived, what effects have you seen among young readers at BEDU?
I have also noticed that from being inhibited young students, they were now very eager to read all together from the e-readers. I have seen such a difference in their confidence levels which were not obvious prior to them having an e- reader to take them places and activities they had never been. I notice that they are now very comfortable to pick up their individual e-readers and read silently for hours. Staff who close the reading rooms have to ask them to leave in order for them to lock-up for the day.
And, that, at the end of the day, is the goal that the International Book Project strives for in its mission. We want to foster an enthusiasm for learning and reading for our students. Books take us to new intellectual and creative heights. They challenge us, change us, and transport us to new places. Every young reader should be able to have that experience, and with the help of Worldreader’s partnership we are excited to grow in our delivery of e-books to our partners.