WHEN eight-year-old Althaeá Dickinson was talking to her grandad about World Book Day at her school she asked him if schools in South Africa, where the Bambisanani Partnership charity operates, were involved in World Book Day.

She was very disappointed to hear that most schools in the rural Nkandla area of KwaZulu-Natal were not involved in World Book Day and that many schools had very few reading books and that very few children had books at home.

Althaeá said: "If it is World Book Day then all the children in the world should be involved."

She was determined to do something about a situation that she did not think was right. This prompted her first ever emails to book shops explaining the situation and asking if they could help by providing books that the Menston based Bambisanani Partnership charity could take to South African primary schools when volunteers visited this summer.

There was a fantastic response and over the last few months Althaeá has collected a remarkable 1091 books from different shops and individual donations. With the help of volunteers from St Mary’s School, Menston and Newcastle College, these books are now in South Africa being used at Vumanhlamvu Primary School, Ntolwane Primary School, Little Flower Primary School in Eshowe and the Zulufadder Doremi Kindergarten for orphans and vulnerable children.

The books now being enjoyed by pupils in South AfricaThe books now being enjoyed by pupils in South Africa

Althaeá said: “So many people have helped with this project and I would like to thank everyone for listening to me and for being so kind. It is great to see the children with books now.”

Books were very generously donated in Yorkshire by The Grove Book Shop, Ilkley; Castlegate Books, Knaresborough; Fox Lane Books, Thorpe Wiloughby; WH Smith, Ilkley; Waterstones, (Leeds and Doncaster) and Morrisons.

William Vilakazi, Principal of Vumanhlamvu Primary School said: “My school serves one of the most deprived rural areas of the country and we have few resources. However, our children are very keen to learn. These books will excite and motivate my learners, improving reading and listening skills. Althaeá has already been in contact via video with my learners asking about their favourite books and characters from the books. My learners have responded to her; this initiative has already connected young people from the UK and South Africa. It is difficult to comprehend that Althaeá, at the age of only eight, has made all this happen. She is amazing; the world needs more people like her.”

The books being enjoyed in South Africa

Darren Beardsley, Chairman of the Bambisanani Partnership added: “Althaeá is a remarkable young person who is clearly determined to make a difference in the world. Many people have great ideas but never actually do anything with them. Althaeá recognised an inequality and did something about it. Her actions will help develop literacy and a love of reading, the importance of this cannot not be overstated. This programme will also help us connect schools in the UK and South Africa. We are delighted to have Althaeá as our youngest but very effective volunteer.”

Writing to Althaeá, Priscilla Guliwe, from the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education said: “The books were received with lots and lots of love. We appreciate the initiative especially from a young girl like you. Keep it up. I am happy to report that the resources provided are in line with what the KZN Department of Education is advocating. They will assist in the love of reading that will lead to reading for meaning, that is why we are promoting DAAR (Drop All And Read) period to maintain a reading culture. According to PIRLS results (Progress International Reading Literacy Study), learners achieved below expected levels in reading. One of the main recommendations is that resources such as school libraries and classroom libraries must be available. Your books are very important and helpful to the young children because learners should engage in reading a variety of books to become critical and creative thinkers. Reading for enjoyment, if learners enjoy reading, this will raise the literacy levels and improve the ability of learners to learn.”

The books being enjoyed in South Africa

Additionally, Althaeá recently completed a tough 4.5-mile sponsored coastal walk in Cornwall raising £410 for the international charity Water Aid UK which operates around the world, including South Africa, working to make clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene normal for everyone.

To support Althaeá’s Bambisanani Literacy Project in any way contact d.geldart@bambisananipartnership.org

For more information about the Bambisanani Partnership see www.bambisananipartnership.org