What We Do
Our mission is to inspire in children a love of reading.
Reading is a key life skill, which equips people to thrive in society. It is a gateway skill that leads to many other opportunities.
We are inspiring a love of reading in Zambian children by modeling excellent reading. We are developing questioning, enquiry and discussion, which are vital life skills. This will lead to improved literacy, enhanced life skills and greater opportunities.
We are developing a team that will model good literacy teaching, and reading skills, encouraging Zambian teachers and other adults to develop their own love of reading, and giving them the skills necessary to share this love of reading with many more Zambian children.
We are starting small and, in time, we will aim to train teams of Zambian volunteers who will go into different parts of the city, and beyond, to work with disadvantaged children.
Who we are
Val Harwood: "I am the founder of the Reading Box. I worked for many years as an infant teacher in Sidmouth, UK. In 2010 we moved to Lusaka, Zambia. We are part of Grace City Church in Lusaka. We have four children and three grandchildren so have frequent visits back to the UK for cuddles with the babies! Our aim is to make a difference for good where ever we are and The Reading Box is part of that plan."
Ruth Parker: " I am The Reading Box Honiton Representative. I am part of The Community Church Honiton. I help lead the children's work and also work with parents and children in a local Children Centre. I love children and have a passion to make the world a better place for them."
- The Zambian literacy rate is below 60%, with illiteracy more pronounced in women than in men.
- About half of all Zambian children do not achieve even basic literacy levels.
- About half of the population is below 15 years of age.
- There is no culture of reading to children for enjoyment, or as a way to encourage reading skills.
- It is generally accepted that low levels of literacy, and education in general, negatively affect the economic development of a country.
- Teaching methods are based on rote learning.
- Class sizes can be huge – sometimes up to 90 or more children in one class.
-Many children leave school early or have interrupted education due to parents not being able to afford school fees or the cost of the school uniform.
- Many girls are not educated as they are considered more useful at home.
- Very few children have access to books or other reading materials.
The problem is immense.
Our plan is very simple. It requires some books, time and enthusiasm! As resources and skills become available, the impact of the project will grow. We intend to involve the local church in this project and for it to be part of its service to the poor and vulnerable. This is how the project is working:
Teaching Reading Skills
- Books are taken into communities - into schools, churches, community halls, shanty compounds.
- Stories are read to children purely for their enjoyment.
-Children are allowed to explore a range of reading materials and to just enjoy the books.
- Small groups of children are taught reading skills using phonics.
- Groups are also being set up for teaching adult literacy.
Training the trainers
- The teachers and helpers in the community are given training around how to read stories in a fun and interactive way, encouraging the important life skills of discussion, enquiry and questioning.
- The teachers and helpers in the community are taught how to teach reading, using phonics.
How can you help?
- Raise awareness of the need and the project.
- Donate books towards the project.
- Give or fundraise for money to cover the cost of shipping and operating expenses.
In the UK, the project funding is kindly handled by ZEMS, which will increase the value of your gift through Gift Aid if you are a UK tax payer. To make donations, please go to this page, There are several ways in which you can give. Please make sure you mention that you are donating to The Reading Box as there are several charities that ZEMS supports.
We would love you to donate books. Please donate books from the list below.
Please drop off, or post, books to The Kings Centre, Lees Building, High Street, Honiton, Devon, EX14 1DH.
Alternatively, you can give them to Marian Parker at The Community Church, Honiton, which meets on Sundays at 10.30am at The Beehive, Honiton or Ruth Parker at The Community Church, Sidmouth which meets at Sidmouth College on Sundays at 10am. A member of the welcome team will be able to point you in the right direction.
Below are some book suggestions. We also recommend the following authors:
We ask that you avoid donating books that have Witches, Dinosaurs, Owls and princesses. These things are not part of the Zambian culture and we would like books to be relevant and meaningful for the children reading them.
The Gruffalo – Julia Donaldson
The Gruffalo’s Child – Julia Donaldson
Can’t You Sleep Little Bear? – Martin Waddell
Peace At Last – Jill Murphy
Five Minutes Peace – Jill Murphy
Guess How Much I Love You – Sam McBrackney
The Lighthouse Keeper’s Lunch – Ronda and David Armitage
Any Dr Seuss books
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt – Michael Rosen
Quiet Night In – Jill Murphy
The Tiger Who Came To Tea – Judith Kerr
I Love You to the Moon and Back – Tim Warnes
Monkey Puzzle – Julia Donaldson
Quiet – Paula Bright
The Cuddliest Cuddle in the World – Sarah Nash
Giraffes Can’t Dance – Giles Andreae
The Big Wide Mouthed Frog - Elan Martin Lavranaga
Handa’s Surprise – Eileen Browne
The Rainbow Fish – Marcus Pfister
The Crocodile Who Didn’t’ Like Water– Gemma Merino
Go Tell it to the Toucan – Colin West
Hello Great Big Bullfrog – Colin West
Not Me Said the Monkey – Colin West
Pardon said the Giraffe – Colin West
Prince Cinders – Babette Cole
Dogger – Shirley Hughes
Dear Zoo – Rod Campbell
My Dad is a Giraffe – Stephen Michael King
The Selfish Crocodile – Faustin Charles