Picture Books for Awa

Sabrina Urquhart's picture
Posted by Sabrina Urquhart on
Fri, 12/04/2015

Awa is 10 and in fourth grade. She lives in Mali in the small village of Missirikoro. She walks to school each morning with her friends Sakenetou and Amadou. The girls take turns cleaning the yard and classrooms at school. “I sweep the classroom and clean kettles. I also clean the table, like the boys do. I didn’t do this before, but Save the Children showed me that that girls and boys can do the same job. I like to clean the chalkboard,” says Awa.

“In class we study reading, writing, math and gym. I have fun with my classmates and we play with a ball, which we made ourselves out of rags,” she says. After school, once Awa has completed her homework, she goes to the reading camp run by Save the Children at her Aunt Fati’s house. There Afou, a reading camp volunteer is on hand to help her with her reading and lend her books from the communal book bank. “I go to Fati’s home to learn to read with plastic books that I find very interesting, especially the pictures,” she explains.

“Before, I could not read and write, but the Save the Children reading camp has taught me a lot,” Awa says.

At the reading camp, Awa has access to books written in her mother tongue. “I like the books!” she says. “I like the picture of the bananas and lemons. It gives me the confidence to read the content. I understand it easily as it’s written in Barmankan.”

About 20 children attend the camp regularly, which is run by four volunteers. They read independently or with reading buddies, play word and letter games and compete in reading marathons. The children like learning about scientific subjects from the books like the density of matter and the properties of liquids.

The camp is part of Save the Children’s Literacy Boost program in the area, which aims to promote reading in grades 1-4 in the districts of Sikasso and Yorosso. It is an approach that combines teacher training, regular assessments and community action. “The camp has been so successful in the village. Families of the participants have even asked to borrow the books to read at the camp or at home,” says Afou. In addition, parents now participate in weekly story-telling sessions too.

Before Literacy Boost was introduced in the area, the only place children could get books was at school. The reading camp gives them a chance to grow as readers outside of school hours. The children love the new books, and find the colored pictures very interesting. “The plastic books are also durable and easy to look after,” Afou adds, “But I wish we had more books with different stories for children to further expand their knowledge.”


The Students Rebuild Literacy Challenge, in partnership with Save the Children and Global Nomads Group, helped thousands of children in disadvantaged communities become successful life-long readers and learners. The Bezos Family Foundation, through Students Rebuild, has matched each bookmark you made and mailed in with $1—up to $300,000—for Save the Children’s Literacy Boost program in Mali, Nepal and Peru.