Partnership supports libraries as community spaces to improve children’s reading

From 2015 to 2017, the project supported the creation of child-friendly reading corners in 20 community and public libraries across eleven districts in Bangladesh.

Officials from the Department of Public Libraries, the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID), and various non-governmental organizations gathered this morning at the Department of Public Libraries, Shahbagh, Dhaka to celebrate the successful completion of the Beyond Access Bangladesh project.

From 2015 to 2017, the project supported the creation of child-friendly reading corners in 20 community and public libraries across eleven districts in Bangladesh. The two-year initiative was part of the USAID-funded Reading Enhancement for Advancing Development (READ), and was implemented by Save the Children in collaboration with Department of Public Libraries. The Beyond Access Bangladesh portion of the project was co-funded by USAID and a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to the International Research and Exchange Board (IREX).

Beyond Access Bangladesh selected 20 community and public libraries in 11 districts to make use of the country’s existing libraries as spaces for children and their families to enjoy reading and access more reading materials. The project provided reading materials for children at various levels, supplied multiple computer tablets with literacy-focused computer games, and trained library staff to use interactive reading games and other methods to help children learn to read. The Beyond Access Bangladesh project is a component of USAID’s 5-year READ project, which works to improve the quality of literacy instruction in 2,949 Government Primary Schools throughout Bangladesh.

Honorable Minister, Ministry of Cultural Affairs, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, Mr. Asaduzzaman Noor, MP, graced the occasion as the Chief Guest. Honorable Minister Mr. Asaduzzaman Noor expressed his appreciation for the end results of Beyond Access Bangladesh project and how the project promoted the idea of reading for pleasure among children, parents, teachers, and librarians. Honorable Minister also encouraged development partners, organizations, and parents to amplify their efforts to improve libraries as space for children to enjoy reading.

In her remarks, Ms. Caroll Vazquez, the USAID Director of the Office of Population, Health, Nutrition, and Education, praised the successful partnership that made the program a success.

“By leveraging the resources of USAID, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, IREX, and the Department of Public Libraries, along with the expertise of Save the Children, this project has created a model library that makes reading outside of school accessible and fun for children so that they can learn to read.”

During the event, participants shared how Beyond Access Bangladesh engaged communities in order to help see libraries as valuable places for children to improve their reading and learn outside of school. Dr. Ishtiaq Mannan, Deputy Country Director, Save the Children in Bangladesh, emphasized how regular parents’ gatherings, reading festivals, and workshops for librarians have improved children’s reading competencies and imagination. He also mentioned the organization’s constant effort and strong partnership to achieve quality basic education as mentioned in Sustainable Development Goal-4 for 2030.

The event was chaired by Mr. Ashish Kumar Sarker, Director General, Department of Public Libraries, Ministry of Cultural Affairs. The Beyond Access Bangladesh project has been implemented in collaboration with the Department of Public Libraries, Ministry of Cultural Affairs.

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