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Building Literacy–Libraries are Changing Lives in Africa

The Lubuto Library in Lusaka, Zambia, is building children’s literacy through books,laptop computers, and more.

Imagine you picked up a book and couldn’t read the words, went to take a medication but couldn’t read the instructions, or visited a new city and couldn’t read the street signs. According to the United Nations, globally, one in five adults cannot read; in Sub Saharan Africa two in five adults are illiterate and some 31 million primary-school-age children who don’t attend school may become the next generation of non-reading adults.

Saturday, September 8, is International Literacy Day, which recognizes that a literate population is central to promoting economic well being, health, and a well functioning democracy.

Africa’s cities are filled with poor children, many homeless or orphaned, who cannot afford to go to school. Many are affected by HIV and AIDS.  In Lusaka, Zambia, these children are getting a chance to learn to read and improve their literacy through the Lubuto Library Project, an Aid for Africa member that creates beautiful libraries that are enriching safe havens for vulnerable children to learn, listen, experience, and express themselves. 

The Lubuto libraries open their doors to disadvantaged out-of-school Zambian youth.  Through Lubuto’s programs, these children and young adults acquire literacy skills and build their self worth.  The libraries are stocked with expertly selected and organized children’s books and local-language materials, and are staffed by local community-based social organizations. Children can page through or read books or join “storytime sessions,” where books are read out loud. Children also act out scenes from the books, create art based on their readings, and are encouraged to write their own stories. 

At the Lubuto libraries, literacy starts with reading but includes much more.  Lubuto has a laptop program that helps children become computer literate. Lubuto laptops are used by children to write about their lives and improve their language and computer skills.

Enesto Zulu began to visit the Lubuto Library in Lusaka when he was fourteen years old.  When asked why he came, he said, “. . . I come to know about the world, about the people, and about the maps.”  He also used the laptops and took art classes. 

Literacy is not just knowing how to read, it is the first step to knowing about the world. Learn more about Aid for Africa members helping children and young adults in Sub Saharan Africa learn to read and enhance their literacy.