Ethiopia: We Love Reading

Developing a Culture of Literacy among Refugee Children through Mobile Libraries

The model complements formal school structures and is being implemented by UNHCR in partnership with Plan International in Gambella refugee camp, where over 332,000 South Sudanese refugees are hosted and school enrolment is low.

Initiated in Jordan, UNHCR put the model through a four-month testing phase that included detailed consideration and adaptation for the local context, including language, culture, and learning as well as a review of current education actors to understand how best to integrate it in Ethiopia. These tests, placed the community at the center of the development process.

“We started reading under trees, children saw the books and started coming. We need to read in our own language. We Love Reading helps our children.”

Shambool, a young refugee man in Gambella camp, Ethiopia

The teams introduced English, Nuer, and Arabic story books, as well as stories told by community members, testing to see which resonated with the children and elders.

Since the project kicked off, 35 of the trained volunteer community readers have established libraries in different locations throughout the camp, from child friendly spaces to shaded gardens in front of their homes. By the second week of the project, over 1,000 children were attending reading circles. Two months later the project had doubled its impact, reaching over 2,000 children.

Children are also going home and talking about the stories they have heard, each with their own messages of empathy, good character, and morals.

In the long run, the aim of the project is to assist in decreasing stress levels and provide much needed psychosocial-support. It will also provide a much-needed link to preserve traditional and cultural stories from refugees' homelands.