Access to reading materials is key, that’s why we work tirelessly to bring books to children through schools, community libraries and our unique horse-powered literacy program.

Ethiopia Reads has planted over 70 libraries across Ethiopia; at least one in every region of the country. These libraries are a resource for tens of thousands of adults and children, as well as hundreds of teachers and schools directors. They are a safe and quiet place to study for exams. They are a place of learning and togetherness. And most important, they are a place to access the fundamental books that are often not accessible anywhere else.

We provide each library with furniture, books and educational materials, as well as training in literacy and librarianship. We offer long-term support for the library managers and staff. As a result, many of our library communities are thriving with weekly book-clubs and community story-times, and are bursting with people who simply love to read.

Quality in library services ranks high among Ethiopia Reads programmatic priorities. Many of our planted libraries are owned and sustained by other entities or organizations (such as local governments or other NGOs). We currently operate several children’s community libraries which serve as models of practice and centers for training.

Our mobile library program, “Horse Powered Literacy,” shares books with children in rural communities that have never had access to them before – reaching their villages by horse.

Hawassa Reading Center
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Hawassa Reading Center
Established in 2006, the Hawassa Reading Center (HRC) is our longest-running community library program. It is open from Monday to Friday from 8:00 am – 6:00 pm, and on most weekends. The young readers range widely in age, from 6 – 16, and the library is always busy with students free during different shifts in their class schedules and on weekends.

The librarians read story books for the younger children every Friday afternoon and Saturday morning. The result has been a continuing increase of library users over time and continuing improvement of reading culture. The library staff help the librarian by organizing books and maintaining order among the children using the library.

Hawassa Reading Center is a great addition to the ever-growing city.

Gebeta Library
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Gebeta Library
The Gebeta Childrens Library has been serving the children in the Kebena neighborhood of Addis Ababa since its establishment on September 25, 2013. It is open Monday through Friday, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm, and often on weekends, too. Library users are generally children in Kindergarten to Grade 7 and the children's ages vary from 3 – 13 years old. Many are students who come after regular school hours looking for a quiet, well lit, place to study.

There is a regular read-aloud program on Tuesdays and the children are allowed to play puzzles and board games every Wednesday.

The children have established a sincere interest in reading books, as opposed to using the library exclusively to do homework and study. Now they try to read the books that were read aloud to them. Even when they are still learning to read, the children like to go through the books and look at the pictures.

The number of library members continues to grow. Young athletes from the Team Tesfa & WALL programs, as well as volunteers from abroad, regularly lead read-aloud programs for the kids. Volunteer Natan is pictured above reading to the children.

An important event for the Gebeta Library is 'Family Literacy Day' which involves neighborhood children and their parents. It creates an opportunity once a month for parents to spend some time reading with their children. This encourages the kids' desire to read more and improves the reading skills of the parents as well. The children prepare different activities to present to their parents on that day, like dramas based on stories they’ve read in the library, and songs that they’ve been rehearsing.

Mobile Libraries
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Mobile Libraries
Mobile Libraries mean access to books and foundational literacy for hundreds of children in rural Ethiopian communities.

Using horses and a dynamic storyteller, our approach to reaching children in rural areas is truly innovative. We piloted donkey libraries but the cost of animal maintenance and the cumbersome nature of the library cart prevented it from reaching truly rural areas. Our recent evaluations have shown the horse-powered literacy program to be most effective in reaching children in communities inaccessible by car or motorbike, thus furthering Ethiopia Read's mission to reach all children with the power of reading.

Horse-Powered Literacy (HPL) puts books into the hands of kids who literally have never held a book before. For a few precious hours, kids are relieved of tending their cattle or fetching water to expand their minds with the power of words.

The Horse-Powered Library follows a circuit from village to village bringing books to eager children. The horse is tethered underneath a large tree, and children are encouraged to gather nearby. The HPL facilitator will often distribute books to the children, read them a story and teach letters and numbers to help the children learn to read and write. When the session is over, everything is packed up and the Horse-Powered Library is off to the next reading site.

In the Kembata-Tembaro region of southern Ethiopia, our HPL facilitator is reading enthusiast, Legesse Enjero. A child born into a large family, Legesse was unable to attend school as the closest one was three hours from his home. Furthermore, his parents, both farmers, needed Legese to help them with farming in the fields.

As an adult, Legesse was determined that his own children and others should have the opportunity to read, write, sing, and understand mathematics - so he taught them and made sure to provide basic literacy and numeracy to young children in his native village of Kololo.

Once Ethiopia Reads built the Kololo’s first school in 2011, Legesse was recruited by Ethiopia Reads to lead outreach into surrounding villages. The model is simple: a trained teacher on horseback, with saddle bags filled with books, pencils, and exercise books.

“I decided to help these children because they are in the same position that I was,” Legesse says. ‘With this program we reach over 1,000 students in rural villages.”

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