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Many studies have been done on kids’ performance in school and what affects it. Some studies have shown that kids with access to books at home have better reading skills as well as math and technology skills. Sadly books aren’t always accessible to kids, especially to those in underprivileged communities and countries. Today, the biggest reason so few households in South Africa have books is that they simply can’t afford them. However, Book Dash wants to change that.
The South African non-profit organization launched in 2014, and it is working to provide kids with books with help from volunteers. Book Dash director Dorette Louw says to The Christian Science Monitor: “We were devastated by the idea that having a book was a luxury good in South Africa.” They simply came up with an innovative model to provide children with books for free or at an affordable price.
Book Dash’s method is simple: they recruit professional writers, illustrators, editors, and designers to participate in a 12-hour book creation session or “dash”. The organization divides the volunteers into groups of four, each with a writer, illustrator, editor, and designer. The writer is supposed to develop a rough storyline before the dash, and the rest of the team completes the entire book during the 12-hour session.
This process allows Book Dash to avoid much of the usual book publishing costs. They get over a million copies of the books to households within a tight budget. Book Dash has produced more than 100 stories since its launch and the books cover topics like a sloth searching for the perfect place to nap, the circle of life, and the value of diversity.
A majority of the books are written in English, but many have been translated into other languages spoken in South Africa, which gives kids a chance to read in their first language.
Book Dash distributes the books by partnering with different literacy organizations and educational charities. On Book Dash’s website, kids can read PDFs of the books for free, and a printed copy costs 40 rands which are about $2.80 each.
One of the organization’s volunteer designers, Thokozani Mkhize, remembers that she never felt represented in the stories she read as a child. That’s a wonderful thing about Book Dash’s stories; they offer creators an opportunity to spark conversations and write stories that South African children can relate to.
“You see yourself in these stories and these characters,” Mkhize says. “You can feel, ‘I am normal, my experiences are normal, and my stories are important too.’"
Kids are the future. By giving them a fair chance at life, an optimistic future will come sooner.