Creative Learners

Creative Learners
Learning Brief


Hand-in-hand: improving the delivery of educational materials through effective organisational partnerships

Category: Creative Learners | Reading Promotion | 12 June, 2013 - 14:06


Biblionef is an organisation that provides under-resourced children and adolescents with new books in order to stimulate their curiosity and desire to learn. It distributes high-quality books to needy children, schools and libraries throughout South Africa with emphasis on townships, informal settlements and remote rural areas.

Biblionef is unique because it supplies children with new books in all of South Africa’s eleven official languages. There are not enough mother-tongue publications in the country and so it works actively with local publishers and writers to commission children's books in minority languages. In doing so it aims to lay a solid foundation of knowledge for all children’s future.

In 2012, Biblionef partnered with Project for the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa (PRAESA) to distribute over 2000 books to 20 twenty different Nal’ibali reading clubs. This learning brief describes the success of this partnership and shows how like-minded organisations work together to facilitate the supply of appropriate reading and literacy materials to children and adolescents in under-resourced communities. It also demonstrates how organisations targeting similar audiences can avoid niche overlap and service redundancy because they engage in open and collaborative partnerships that aim to provide careful and strategic giving.

Project Implementation

In 2012, Biblionef donated 100 storybooks to 20 newly established Nal’ibali Reading Clubs across South Africa. Initiated by PRAESA, Nal’ibali reading clubs are relaxed environments, where people who love stories and books meet regularly to read, tell stories and talk about what they are reading with children of all ages. The clubs are voluntary, can happen in any language, and can consist of more than just reading – sometimes they also do other fun activities related to stories and books and writing.

The goal of donating mother tongue books to the children at the Nal’ibali Reading Clubs was to promote a love of reading and to improve the children’s literacy levels. In order to achieve this goal Biblionef wanted to make sure that the clubs received the most appropriate books for their own members. This entailed a collaborative implementation plan that included the following elements:

Cooperative Planning – before donating books Biblionef liaised with PRAESA’s Nal’ibali team to determine where books should be sent, and what kind of books were needed for each group. The Nal’ibali team suggested donating books to the first 20 Reading Clubs that registered in 2012.

Strategic giving – In consultation with the Nal’ibali team, Biblionef made direct contact with the Reading Club representatives and encouraged them to draft formal request letters for a donation. These letters included full information on the clubs, including the numbers of children and their languages. As a result, Biblionef was able to strategically select titles for each individual Reading Club based on the Club members’ language and reading level needs. Nal’ibali representatives were then invited to view the selected books and make changes as needed.

Efficient delivery – Biblionef made sure to deliver the donated books in a timely manner as promised. All the donations were delivered by October 2012 and most of the reading clubs returned receipts and letters of thanks acknowledging their donations.

Delighting in feedback – in the spirit of growth, Biblionef enjoys receiving feedback from its book recipients because it enables the organisation to adapt and grow its giving strategy. Feedback from the Nal’ibali Reading Club volunteers and children indicated that:

  • they were excited to receive the story books;
  • the books and titles selected and delivered to each group were reading-level appropriate;
  • there is now at least one book per child on each reading club;
  • the children in the clubs found a renewed interest in reading in their home language and about local content because it helped them identify better with the stories;
  • the addition of books into the reading club sparked the interest of other members from the community to join the clubs.


The Biblionef – PRAESA relationship is a success case because it implementation a strategy that included cooperative planning right from the outset and allowed for the delivery of over 2000 books across the country in just a few months. These two organisations well worked together to supply appropriate reading materials to children in under-resourced communities. They targeted their giving strategy and engaged the recipients in honest and open dialogue, which included critical feedback.

Comments from the Reading Clubs

The donation of books had a major impact on the club, the children who were most interested improved a lot. Some of the children were mentioning it at home to their parents, and for the first time we saw parents coming and dropping their children at the door rather than the gate. We also experienced a number of new members.”

“There was great excitement amongst the children. We have been sharing different books and what’s interesting is that children are enjoying other languages like Afrikaans.”

“The first impression of the children when I read them ‘Fly Eagle, Fly!’ was priceless. They were seated on our carpets, listening attentively with a few comments in between the reading, predicting the ending of the story. Shh! some learners would say. The books are age appropriate and also relevant to the social and cultural context from which most of the children come.”

“The books were well received and have made a huge positive impact on the club. The books will help us in a way that every child will have a book to read. There are children who are regulars and have earned our trust of letting them take books home and bring them the following reading session. “

“The children in the reading club were referred by their teachers because they cannot cope with reading and writing in the classroom setting. These children were given individual attention, affirming them and working together with them. These children have shown a lot of improvement in their reading skills.”

4 Central Square, Pinelands, Cape Town


In Short

The Biblionef – PRAESA partnership to deliver 2000 books to reading clubs across South Africa reveals how specialist organisations can avoid service overlap by engaging in effective and strategic collaboration.

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