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U.S. students help fund donkey bookmobiles for Ethiopia

By Alicia Rudnicki |

Imagine a life without the {www:imagination} of the printed page. Imagine a life without libraries in dusty African villages. Imagine the soaring imagination of two librarians who decided to solve this problem with the help of donkeys.

Next week school children around the United States will participate in fundraising events to help pay for mobile donkey libraries and other projects to improve literacy for children in Ethiopia. They will do this by participating in the first annual Ethiopia Reads Book Week U.S.A., which is supported by Scholastic Literacy Partnerships in conjunction with the organization Ethiopia READS.

You can enjoy presentations by Ethiopian dancers and storytellers today during the kickoff of Ethiopia Reads Book Week at Aurora’s Central Library, 11 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. You can also meet a donkey and see a {www:replica} of a book mobile cart.

Fifty years ago, when librarian Yohannes Gebregeorgis was learning how to read from Peace Corps volunteers in his Ethiopian village, he probably would never have imagined such an event. After all, the only reading materials available were the textbooks at school.

He also probably never imagined that he would establish a publishing company—Ethiopian Books for Children and Educational Foundation—or become a children’s author or be named one of CNN’s Top Heroes of 2008 for “championing children.”

There were no public libraries in Gebregeorgis’ homeland, and he didn’t own a book until he was 19. It was this ownership, according to the International Reading Association, that “sparked a sparked a lifelong commitment” to improving literacy in his homeland.

That commitment, coupled with the degree in librarianship that he gained in the U.S. after having to flee here as a political refugee, resulted in the organization Ethiopia READS. Gebregeorgis created it along with his friend and fellow librarian, Jane Kurtz,  a children’s author who lived in Ethiopia as a child.

The International Reading Association quotes Gebregeorgis as saying that most Ethiopian children still only “have {www:access} to textbooks in the classroom. Books children read outside of school, those are the spices of education.”

How can you help? Visit the “Get Involved” webpage at Ethiopia READS.

For More Information: Here are two great YouTube videos. The first one, from Voice of America, shows Yohannes Gebregeorgis and the donkey bookmobile. The second, is a lyrical view of Awassa, the first Ethiopian village to receive the bookmobile service.

One thought on “U.S. students help fund donkey bookmobiles for Ethiopia

  1. Yoahnnese, my Ethiopian person of the year, the idol and a man of action. we are all inspired. Oh yeah, the children whose life you have changed will thank you forever. There are only two words left to write and it makes me happy when I write it here: Thank you!

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