"I never buy books with bath time" - Founder of Little Libraries on how she chooses books with enormous care

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Camille chooses the books with enormous care
Camille chooses the books with enormous care

"Six years ago, whilst volunteering for another NPO, I got to visit ECDs in the townships around Cape Town," Camille Quine, founder of Little Libraries told us. "I was shocked to see that ECDs operate with no books or educational material due to a lack of money."

She says the primary needs of the children were taken care of, but there were not many possibilities in terms of stimulation.

"My husband and I decided to help one school with a little reading corner - as an act of kindness. Some friends who heard us talking about it joined to help and we helped a few more schools."

Must read: 50% of children have never read a book with their parents – here's why we need to encourage reading early on

"We have now helped over 300 schools," she says proudly, with 299 little libraries donated to date along with two community libraries for older children, with a third set to open on Mandela Day this year.

With Little Libraries, Camille aims to ensure that children in disadvantaged schools hold books, learn to turn the pages and make their own stories looking at pictures.

"I wanted to give the caregivers material to tell their children lots of stories," she says. "We wanted to make story time exciting so that by the time those children arrive at primary school, they think of books as something cool not merely as boring textbooks."

A Little Library consists of a wooden bookshelf filled with around 120 books. These books are gathered through donations, either in the form of donated books, or cash donations which is used to buy books.

It’s not all been plain sailing 

Camille describes how she chooses the books with enormous care. 

"I have received flak about the language issue and yes, ideally it would be fabulous to be able to give books to children in their mother tongue," she explains, adding that she has had to make hard choices between providing more books, and more excitement, or fewer books but in local languages.

Also read: We’re collaborating with Book Dash to ensure every child owns a hundred books by the age of five

"When we choose books for the caregivers to read we choose stories with one liners," she continues. "Originally we thought that it would make it easier for them to read them to themselves and translate for the kids, so to the children the stories would be heard in their mother tongue."

"But many caregivers opt to read the lines out loud in English first before translating them, because they say that the children in their care learn the English words like sponges, and that's a positive too!"

"Being sensitive to their context is important"

Camille describes how she chooses the books with enormous care.

"I pay great respect when it comes to choosing books, so that it doesn't go in the face of what those children's lifestyle might be," she says.

"For example, I never buy books with bath time as many do not have bathrooms let alone running water. I don't choose books about big birthday parties, when some kids do not get fed every night."

"And I never give out the Three Little Pigs when the morale is 'if you do a job, do it well, build your house in bricks'. Many children live in shacks, a sad reality. For me being sensitive to their context is important."

Camille says she has however loved the journey, and is very proud that Little Libraries has reached around 11 000 children through about 35 000 books distributed to date.

Visit Little Libraries on Facebook for more information.

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Read more:

We’re collaborating with Book Dash to ensure every child owns a hundred books by the age of five

South African stories that teach kids about race in a positive way

50% of children have never read a book with their parents – here's why we need to encourage reading early on

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