top of page

When Libraries go to the Children

All around the world, there are individuals who know the difference that an exposure to books and reading can make in a child’s life and they brave challenging terrain, extreme weather conditions, conflict, war, abduction, and other obstacles, to deliver books to isolated communities, and to children who otherwise may have had nothing to read.

“Our idea is to show that reading can be fun, and explain why education is so important…it might also help them see the world in a different way and help end the way of thinking that is holding this country back.” - Siyawash, the founder of ‘Ketab Lwast’ (Read Books) in Afghanistan.

“They (children) love books. They dream and learn about the world through reading. For me, books mean progress, imagination, love, passion, joy.”, says Luis Soriano “A child we can educate today with the Biblioburro is a child to whom we are teaching rights, duties and commitments. And a child who knows his rights, duties and commitments, is a child informed to say no to war.”

You may have heard about ‘Book mobiles’ i.e. libraries on wheels, which take books to different communities around the world. Here are a few books about innovative libraries, some true stories or based on true stories of ‘book people’ who innovated, thinking ‘otherwise’ to take books and reading to children.

That Book Woman by Heather Henson That Book Woman is a personal favourite. When I first read this, I was awestruck by this rare and moving story that honours the Pack Horse Librarians (all women), who carried books deep into the Appalachian mountains, helping untold numbers of children see the stories amid the chicken scratch, helping them grow into lifetime readers.

Biblioburro: A true story form Colombia by Jeanette Winter Colombia, is a country in constant turmoil. Internal conflict between paramilitary and guerrilla groups is worsened by political upheaval and the drug trade. But in the north of Colombia, in a rural area still under threat of violence and repression, a former schoolteacher Luis Soriano, braves all this to take books to children. Outfitting his burros (donkeys) as a mobile lending library, he goes from village to village reading to children, helping them with their homework, and lending books to them.

Waiting for Biblioburro by Monica Brown a story through the eyes of a little girl named Ana, whose town receives a visit from the Biblioburro.

My Librarian is a Camel: How Books Are Brought to Children Around the World by Margriet Ruurs Fascinated by a mobile library she read about in a newspaper article, the author has put together a scrap-book of sorts, featuring mobile libraries around the world. From elephants, donkeys, camels, bicycles, boats or even shipping containers, she features all kinds of mobile libraries in countries like Mongolia, Peru, Zimbabwe and others, that have adapted and reimagined the concept of a library to cater to the needs of the remote communities with not just books, but also with outside human connection.

The Book Boats In by Cynthia Cotten This is a fictional account of young Jesse who waits for the ‘Book Boat’ to come by his town so that he can read and buy his favourite book.Set in the 1800’s this is a story about the hardwork and determination of one young boy to earn a few pennies, to buy his own copy of a favourite book. I was fascinated to learn about the Book Boats which floated along the Erie Canal, USA, bringing the joy of books to people who lived along its banks.

The Lady with the Books by Kathy Stinson

This book is based on the real-life work of Jella Lepman, founder of the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) and the International Youth Library. During the reconstruction of Germany, post WWII Jenna believed that the most important task was to sow hope in the hearts of children and that the best way to carry out this task was through books. A collection of children’s books from around the world traveled throughout Germany after World War II in the hope of building “bridges of understanding” between countries. A book that highlights a message of international cooperation, that still resonates with world events today.


Why would reading these books matter

Reading these books can help children see just how much reading is valued all over the world. How passionate educators and librarians think ‘otherwise’ to take books and reading to ALL children. Having offered them these stories, I hope that they see the value placed on books and reading which falls easily into their privileged laps, and are just as easily brushed aside as boring and uncool.


"Reading books instills a sense of openness," says Malek Refai, of a Mobile Library in war torn Syria serving the refugee community..."We are trying to help young people to find their way to the future. Maybe they can find something interesting or something they are passionate about by accessing these books."

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page