How eBooks Transformed a Community in Rwanda

Rwanda is known as the “Land of a thousand hills.” As of recent, in the Rwandan town of Rwinkwavu, a local library has been embracing e-reading programs that have been proven beneficial. This farming town, home to roughly 30,000 people, is an economically disadvantaged community by most standards. Rwinkwavu’s farmers are largely lacking in modern resources and there is no running water or power.

The local library, however, is filled with e-readers, smartphones and other devices where people can select from hundreds of volumes and publications to read. There are even thousand of volumes available for those with basic mobile phones. All this was made by possible by two charities. Ready for Reading built the town’s library while Worldreader filled it with electronic reading devices. 

Access to so much great reading material is changing everything about the community. The Guardian reported on the introduction of digital books to the community and how it has changed local’s education: “…when news of the Zika virus in Brazil started to sow alarm here, doctors and ordinary people were able to access publications explaining the virus instantly.” 

Jean-Marie Habimana, of the Ready for Reading Charity, commented that the “culture of reading is really low across Rwanda but this is free, so people can access it and feel empowered.” Children, some who walk over 2 miles to the town’s library, are learning to read and developing considerable interests in things that they likely wouldn’t have been exposed to otherwise. 12-year-old John Kanyambo and his friend Dany Tuyizere both agree that the books are entertaining and that their English is improving because of them. 

Adults are reaping the benefits of reading as well: those who could not read before are learning to do so, helping them master skills like finding and applying to new jobs, opening bank accounts, and even running their own businesses.

Nights in Rwinkwavu often consist of many people, children and adults alike, gathering together at the library for hours of reading after a long day of laboring in their fields. It is clear that having a library has done helped bring this community together in wonderful ways. Although the idea is not new to the entire continent of Africa, Betsey Dickey, founder and director of Ready for Reading, pointed out that the introduction of something that locals don’t understand may not always be initially well recieved. “People were intimidated… Then you see a neighbour who’s been going who’s now literate and can run a business … Now the whole community has embraced the opportunities available. Women come to library and want literacy and bring their children too,” she stated.

Worldreader’s empire of e-books and literary magic has extended far beyond Rwanda. They have filled schools and libraries throughout 14 different countries in the sub-Sharan and are planning to expand even further, filling two more libraries by the end of the year.  It’s clear that they have changed the lives of countless readers across the globe. Here’s to hoping they will change many more.

Featured image taken at Humble School in at Mukono, Uganda, courtesy of CNN.