Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.
The video above launched our program in 2012. Our first partner, Thejane Malakane, in Maseru, Lesotho sent us the second video after his students received one of their first shipments of books.
If you love to read, you are one of us. We are a group of students and teachers who believe that all children should have access to quality books no matter where they live. We help by sending books to children who need them.
We also believe that when technology is used purposefully, it can help create one big global classroom. A classroom without walls or borders where we all can learn from one another.
With books and technology, miracles can happen! Watch the video above and see for yourself!
Our Book Story
The Books to Africa Partnership began in 2012 as a grass-roots movement by a group of elementary students at Bell Elementary School in Kirkland, WA who wanted to donate some new or gently used books they found to students in Africa who needed them. They formed a team, and with the connections I have through the Microsoft Innovative Educator Network, they made their dream a reality.
We partner with three schools in the US, and four schools in Africa. I now lead the program from Cougar Ridge Elementary School in Kirkland, WA. Since 2012, we have shipped nearly 6,000 picture and chapter books overseas.
This project empowers students to help others. They organize fundraising activities to fund the costs for shipping books overseas. They sign each book, make bookmarks and write letters to our partner schools. They pack the boxes and wait for word that the books have arrived.
This project brings together the ability for children to help solve authentic problems in a context the weaves traditional literacy and modern technology. On both sides of the ocean our students have an authentic audience for their learning. They can share poetry, reports or videos via Skype. They can talk to each other face to face via Skype. They are learning without borders.
Through these experiences, the students realize that children are children no matter where they live in the world. They can share a love for reading and learning, singing songs and playing games.
In 2015, I decided it was time to visit Africa and see firsthand how our program is impacting learning. By myself, I traveled to South Africa and visited our partner schools. My purpose was to witness what ways our partner teachers and students use literacy materials and how we can help more. You can read about that trip here.
We've linked with Bridges of Peace and Hope, an international network of teachers, students, and friends and are supporting a school in Zambia. We also work with Highbury Preparatory School in Hillcrest, South Africa which supports the primary school at iKhethelo Children's Village.
Connecting personally with each other is a cornerstone of our partnership. We Skype together and collaborate on learning and research projects. These activities build respect and mutual understanding of each other's cultures.
In the 2016-17 school year, we will launch the Books to Africa Partnership video series. Together with our students, Mrs. Allott, our PE teacher, Mr. Kelly-Peterson, the music teacher and I, the librarian will create videos about our languages, songs, books and games we like to play. Because our countries and cultures are so diverse, we have much we can learn from one another. Our goal is to also share videos from our partner schools. Our students can become teachers for each other.
If you love reading and learning on a global scale, you are welcome to join us and make a difference one book, one video and one child at a time.
Julie Hembree, Librarian
Cougar Ridge Elementary School
Bellevue, WA USA
Microsoft Innovative Expert Educator 2012-2016
Dream Team 2012-13
The Starfish Story
Sometimes people ask us if we really think we can make a difference. With the huge literacy problem in African education there is no way we can help everyone. What we can do is try. This is the story I show my students each year to let them know that every book they send is making a difference in the life of a child.