Problem: The project combats the lack of access to books, caused by poverty and by the low rates of literacy of young South Africans. In the country, only 8% of public schools have a functioning library. A study showed that only 14% of adults in the country are active readers and only 5% of parents read to their children. South Africa has nine million functional illiterates, 4.7 million of which are children. Children of wealthy families are ten times more likely to know how to read than children of poor families in the country, according to Unesco. The program offers relevant written content, in accessible language and about important themes, by means of mobile phone and printed books. The objective is to make more youngsters love literature and, as a result, improve their studies and life in general. 75% of the population over 15 years of age in the country have mobile phones.
Solutions: The project connects youngsters to written content by their mobile phones. The “library on a cell phone”, as is it called, can be accessed on smartphones or on older devices connected to the internet. There is both fiction and non-fiction content including options such as stories, theatre plays and poetry. There are works by established South African writers such as Sifiso Mzobe and Tracey Farren as well as regional writers. Every week, a new short story is published in seven daily parts. The project also republishes stories by other publishers and offers tutoring for aspiring young writers, who can publish their books on the platform and participate in writing workshops.
The space is interactive. The readers can make comments, show what they like or share content. In this way they become collaborators and not just mere consumers. The feedback from readers also helps to determine the type of content that is successful in encouraging reading among the adolescents and young adults. The organization is building an online curriculum that will be available for schools to improve the levels of reading of the students and support more in-depth reading experiences.
Outcomes: The project develops interest in reading and the habit of adolescents and young adults reading on a daily basis. It also promotes awareness, sensitivity and empathy for important issues such as refugees, corruption and teenage pregnancy. The project reaches 50 thousand readers every month with an average duration of visits of over 12 minutes. The users enjoy interacting on the platform; over 100 thousand comments have been posted. The Project was a finalist in the 2014 Wise Awards.