As a lawyer and library technical aide at Dublin Coffman High School in Dublin, Ohio, I have a special place in my heart for books and libraries. I often read six books at a time.  I know that a love of books–of holding a book, turning its pages, looking at its pictures, experiencing new ideas and losing oneself in its wonderful stories–goes hand in hand with a love of learning. 

At the same time, libraries provide a place for gathering and building a sense of community.  A library provides information and educational opportunities for all people regardless of their economic status. Students and teachers can find each other there, make friends, and discuss ideas.

Seven years ago, Mrs. Marty Grote, former Coffman librarian, and I launched ALP at Dublin Coffman with the intention to inspire students by showing the ALP video, House of Books In Their Own Words. We knew Africa has the highest percentage of illiteracy in the world, and many African teachers have to teach reading, writing, math and English without even a single book to use as a resource.  I was serving as International Baccalaureate Creativity, Action & Service (CAS) Coordinator, and I wanted to help my students channel their compassion into action.

With the leadership of CAS Students and the support of National Honor Society members; Student Council members; Coffman Freshman Houses; Freshman Modern World History teacher, Mr.  David Woodmansee; and Coffman library workers, we began in 2010 to conduct highly successful school-wide book drives to create primary and secondary school libraries in Ghana, Swaziland, and Botswana.

The focus on learning and books is central to Coffman students and particularly meaningful to CAS students who are the book drive organizers.  Students are involved in every aspect of the book drive.  They publicize the book drive by working on PR, making a video, creating posters and flyers and speaking to others about the initiative in a compelling way. They also collect, sort and pack the books.

We raise money for mailing and shipping by hold a second period Home Room ALP Book Drive competition every few years. Students donate various amounts of money over the course of the three-day competition.  The Home Room that collects the most money is awarded either a bagel breakfast or ice cream party. We have raised as much as $3000, which covers us through several years of book drives.

Thanks to our African Library Project experience, students develop new skills and learn how to plan and work collaboratively with others.  Because of their commitment to ALP, students engage with issues of global importance. I love that this has been a great way to continue to develop a sense of “heart” and a community of service-learners at Coffman.

CAS student Lucie P. reflection reveals, “I am proud to be able to help with such a wonderful project, and am thankful for the same reason. I can see my direct impact on less fortunate kids on the other side of the world, and that’s a rather profound thought. I think education is at the top of the list as far as ways to minimize the poverty gap that exists in our country and internationally.”

CAS student Manu reflects: “I got a glimpse of global issues through the ALP Project. I not only got to learn about the lack of educational resources in African countries but also got to make a difference. As an organizer of our school’s ALP book drive, I got to see our school rally for a good cause as I helped collect, sort, count and package books into boxes to send off to Africa. I was so excited to work for such a great cause and help spread my passion for reading to another corner of the world.”

Ashley T. writes, “I felt accomplished and excited that many children and people in Africa were going to be able to enjoy the same books that we have been enjoying for our childhood. We have learned about the importance of having books and the doors they can open to education.  Education, books and the creation of libraries are huge bridges to further education opportunities.”

With the guidance of ALP, it’s easy to support global literacy and collect over 1000 children’s books, sort, package and ship books to establish primary and secondary libraries. Dublin Coffman students will launch their eighth book drive this November.  Building a library and introducing children to the love of reading can make tangible differences to children and adults in Africa

Guest post by Melanie Hitsman, Library Technical Aide, Dublin Coffman High School

Start Your Own Book Drive

Read our Book Drive Guidelines to learn all you need to know to collect, sort, pack and then mail your books to our warehouse, where they will be containerized for shipment to Africa. Your goal is to collect 1,000 appropriate books and approximately $500 for shipping and related costs. Double this and you can start two! Triple it and… you get the idea. To get ideas from other book drives — how they’ve collected their books and raised their funds.

We ship books all year round.  Our typical calendar is:

  • Ghana in February
  • Botswana in March
  • Malawi in June
  • Kenya in July
  • Uganda in August
  • Lesotho in September
  • Sierra Leone in October
  • eSwatini (Swaziland) in November