This time last year, the students of Damanko-Baduli Junior High School in Ghana did not have a library. Now, thanks to the efforts of Tucker Middle School students and the African Library Project on the other side of the globe, they do.
The African Library Project works with volunteers to organize book drives in the United States and ship those books overseas to countries in Africa. Once there, the books are used to start libraries in English-speaking communities struggling with literacy. It takes about 1,000 books to start a library, and the project focuses on collecting new and gently used children’s books to fight illiteracy in the long-term.
Last year, Teacher-Librarian Sheila Bell of Tucker Middle School stumbled upon the African Library Project while looking for community service ideas in honor of National Book Lovers Day. She then made a goal for Tucker Middle School: participate in the African Library Project and collect books to start a library in Ghana.
To accomplish this, students separated into teams in a competition. They gathered books in boxes that they would then turn in to Ms. Bell. Each day, she would announce which team collected the most books, spurring the students to engage. Overall, Tucker Middle School students amassed 1,000 books—enough to stock a whole new library.
For Tucker Middle School’s International Baccalaureate Coordinator Deborah Mau, there was an obvious IB connection to the African Library Project. Students involved in the IB program are required to gain community service hours and write a reflection based on those experiences. In the past, students have earned their hours through canned food drives, helping out at nursing homes, and similar undertakings. Dr. Mau decided to count the African Library Project for IB credit.
“We’re trying to promote action and community service,” Dr. Mau says, “so I was like, ‘Oh, this sounds great! Let me help!’” By offering IB-accepted community service hours as a reward for donating, sorting, and helping package books, student were further encouraged to participate.
However, collecting books is only part of the project. Fundraising is also a significant part of these book drives due to the high cost of international shipping. The African Library Project estimates that about 650 dollars are required to ship 1,000 books to a new library. Tucker Middle School held a Spirit Night at a local restaurant where ten percent of proceeds were donated. They also relied on revenue from concession stands which students helped staff. Through these events as well as community donations, they raised the money to ship all 1,000 books.
This year participating students received a bonus when Damanko-Baduli Junior High School sent photographs of its own students enjoying their new library.
“Last year I really wanted to convey that we are so blessed,” Ms. Bell says. “We have over 10,000 books in our library. The fact is that there are students who don’t have access to a library.”
“That’s a message that we want to convey this year as well,” Dr. Mau adds. “We have the Tucker News Network. I want to show these photos on there and say ‘Look! Look how these children appreciate getting some books because they didn’t have any!’” She hopes that seeing the impact of their efforts will encourage students to work just as hard as they did last year.
This year, TMS has a new goal: collect 500 books to start a library at a junior high school in Botswana. Until September 26, donations of gently used books will be accepted. If you would like to get involved but do not have books to donate, Tucker Middle School accepts monetary donations as well as purchases from the Amazon wish list linked on their IB website.
“It’s important that we are always giving,” Ms. Bell says. “Hopefully students understand that and appreciate what we have.”