African Library Project

HILLBROOK'S Brilliant, Bold & Bountiful Book Drive!

09/01/09 to 06/01/2013
Los Gatos CA

We are working with the African Library Project to provide books to eager readers in Africa who have very few books. Please help us by collecting and delivering gently used books or by raising money to help pay for shipping to Africa. It takes only 1000 books and $500 (plus a little elbow grease!) to start a single library and make a huge difference in children’s lives.

This book drive is organized by ...

Our ALP drive was done by 6th grade of The Hillbrook School. We are an independent school based in Los Gatos, CA. Our school is K-8 and most grades have a service project of the year. Ours was to collect books and raise money for the African Library Project. This is not a new tradition; it has been happening in our grade for three years. This year, our school collected books for our fourth and fifth libraries in Malawi.

Our website link:

We want to start a library in Africa because...

The Hillbrook sixth graders have been devoted to this project for the children of Malawi and the benefit of the schools there. “Everyone deserves a great life, and reading is part of it” – Chris. The fact that less than half of the population in Malawi is literate has shocked the students and inspired them to help. “I realized how fortunate we are.” – Maddie. Everyone in the school participated in the book drive; the commitment to the cause was stunning. Students demonstrated how much they cared about the schools in Malawi and children's access to books throughout their lives. While looking at some of the reflections that the students had on this experience they commented on why they wanted to help the children. “Children in Malawi deserve books too, everyone should have access to a library” – Jack. “Other peoples\' success makes me want to do better” – Mark "The only reason I'm doing this is because I see so many reasons to do it" - Leo.

About our African Partners...

We received so many book donations that we were able to partner with two different public primary schools in Malawi! The Naname Primary Community School is located in Limbe. This small town is on the outskirts of the bigger city Blantyre (headquarters for the Malawi Railway). There are currently 3,750 kids enrolled and students requested books about science, biology, chemistry, math, African geography, English grammar and literature. The parents of the Malawian students will also use the library. The adults were interested in books on crafts, such as cooking, sewing, weaving, needlecraft and jewelry making.

Our second partner is Ntenjera Primary School, which lies in the Lunzu zone (another area near Blantyre). 1,300 students in Lunzu await the arrival of our books.

Please contribute these kinds of books...

The African Library Project donates their books to children who are trying to overcome many challenges and receive an education. There are certain books which could be donated to your local public school or city library instead of being shipped to Africa. Examples include books that have religious messages (Christmas, Easter, Passover) or which focus on American holidays (Thanksgiving or Fourth of July). Try to keep the reading level below the reading level in America, as English is the second language in Malawi. Lots of pictures in full color are also appreciated. Books can be used, but they should not have pages missing, or be in poor condition. Also, please keep the books in ENGLISH.

Here's how you can contribute your books...

The sixth grade organized a school-wide book drive. We embarked on a journey of education, reflection about our own privilege and access to resources and building empathy through understanding others. Our education components began in our own classroom, where we were informed by guest speakers from Malawi and Zimbabwe. These presenters worked together with teachers in our music and history classes to create cross-curricular connections. We researched ALP, read letters written between our previous 6th graders and their Malawian pen pals (recipients of earlier ALP-Hillbrook drives) and then created an all-school assembly skit to inspire more people to help us. As a class, we had 38 donors, but as a school, we had 210. Simple math told us which route to follow in order to make the most impact. We encouraged (not required) the other grades to participate by making and placing posters. Then we continued our work on a smaller scale with peer-to-peer follow-up discussions in each grade. Once we accomplished our school-wide goal, we acknowledged the success with the reward of a simple cookie. We baked the cookies ourselves in shifts in our school kitchen in the morning and distributed them at the end of the day. Tips: try to set a goal for each grade, or a competition between groups within a grade. We also organized a book swap (each student took a book home after all donations were collected). This helped motivate more kids to donate as they thought of the event as a book exchange with mutual benefits.

We need to raise funds for shipping the books...

1) We made several connection to our student donors to "hook" people into the project . We showed and explained why their help was needed with the help of three different guest speakers. The combination of visitors, slide shows and personal stories educated students both emotionally and intellectually.

2) We reminded our class that they can donate, brainstormed how much would be an appropriate amount and invited students to make a donation in lieu of a traditional homework assignment. Some of us got money straight from our allowance/personal savings. Others sold items from personal collections or held coffee/tea/lemonade sales. One student sold obsidian he dug up on his family\'s property.

3) We held a bake sale (a wildly popular event because it occurs less than once annually at our school). We encouraged hand baked items, communicated with each other about what to bring (avoided duplicates; covered drinks too). We had separate tables for each grade, spread out all over campus to avoid the rush and the mess. One student sold "mystery boxes" of different treats at higher prices. With all those tasty treats at the bake sale, kids even came back for fifths!

4) The second graders studied African cultures and values by reading and writing their own "Por Quoi?" stories, taking an imaginary flight and learning from guest speakers. In addition to donating books, these young students created pictures of African animals in art class, had them made into note cards, and sold them online to friends and family. The profits generated from the note card sales were shared with ALP and the Oakland Zoo. Kids were able to "adopt" an animal they could visit on their field trip (a ring-tailed lemur from Madagascar) in addition to making a direct impact on children their age in Malawi. The second graders were able to raise enough money to sponsor one of our two libraries this year!

Here are some ways that you can help...

We were able to donate over 2,500 books and $1,284 - enough for two Malawian libraries. We had a surge of books coming in daily, and updates with book counts helped fuel student participation. Several students in our grade contributed more than 100 books each! They accomplished this by talking to and collecting from neighbors, family friends and after-school sports teams.

Contact us to find out more

Name: Jenn Gingery 6th Grade Teacher

Name: Eden Maisel Service Learning Coordinator

Progress Report

Our Goal 1,500 books $500 fundraising
Results so far
(updated: 5/25/11)
approx. 2,400 books $1,200+ fundraising

Hey future book drivers! Extra, extra, read all about it! Book drives are great ways help people accomplish a better education. Do you think you can do it? Try to organize one of your own in your school, religious group, office, or any where else you can think of. Donate books you no longer need or you can go out and purchase some gently used books (thrift stores and city library book sales are great sources of books under $1). Good luck!


Masankho Banda, a gifted storyteller and drummer from Malawi, taught us about his culture with visits to second grade and sixth grade classrooms. Our sixth graders learned how to play African drums from our music department.

Julia Chigamba shared a slide show from Zimbabwe and shared about her culture before teaching sixth graders the powerful "warrior" dance in music class.

Chris Bradshaw, ALP founder, lives within an hour of our school and was able to explain how and why she started the project. She shared pictures, music and inspiring stories about American and African children on both sides of the project.

Our Service Learning Coordinator helped us organize and fund our visitors.

Our school librarian (Charlene Douglass) came up with the idea of combining an all-school Book Swap with our ALP project to involve every student in the school with this project, and to promote students talking about and reading books within our own community as well as in Malawi. She shared her library space for donations and scheduled time for each grade to come \"shop\" for a book. She saved the heavy-duty book boxes for shipping aspect of our project too.

Our art (Susie Heeter) and music teachers (Elisabeth Crabtree) devoted some of their precious class time and materials (drums for guests and materials for animal note cards) to support the second and sixth grade homeroom teachers.

Our photo teacher (Greg Stamos), Sophie (student) and a 6th grade parent took our photos.

At least five different parents helped us move books across campus, set up and monitor a "shop" for our Book Swap, "tight-pack" boxes for shipping and drove us to the post office on the "big day."

Our maintenance team lent us the hand trucks to move books all over campus for our swap and our shipping.

Mark, Leo, Rachel, Maya, Chris and Lucas missed out on several fun dodgeball games in order to write the content for our web page.

Tips for Other Book Drive Organizers

1) Motivate people to bring books. Get people listening and interested in the project. Educate with guest speakers, research projects and images of schools and communities in your African country; build connections.

2) Publicize at least three different ways, on three different occasions to encourage follow-through. We made an all school announcement by microphone at assembly, placed posters around campus, visited each classroom and wrote an article for our weekly online newsletter to parents.

3) Consider organizing a reward system so that students get something in return for their efforts. This will hep motivate them to bring extra! Finding a space to stack and store books for a few weeks will help streamline the collection process. It\'s going to get messy, but students need to see the results of their efforts growing each day as books are contributed and a library takes shape.

4) Fund your project so you can pay for shipping costs. You can do this by making a bake sale, having a donation box, selling extra books (if you can spare them) or "buying" a homework night off or the reward of a class celebration party.

5) Collect sturdy boxes, strong packing tape, shipping labels and get to work. The kids come in handy here! At our school we really nailed it on boxing those books tightly, so they didn\'t get ripped or damaged as the boxes were moved around. Plan on one tightly packed mini-van or SUV or pick-up truck to be loaded for the post office. A dolly or hand truck will help move your load of 500-1,000 pounds of books. One person in line at the post office, another at the vehicle and two to work the hand truck help the system work smoothly.

6) Organize a meeting in which the group can reflect on the process of the project as well as the results. Assess what went well (favorite moments and memories captured in photos are helpful) in addition to identifying areas for improvement. Write down and save tips and solutions to problems before you forget them a year later. Contrast the role of an individual that of the "village" or grade or team.

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About the African Library Project

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