International Book Donation Programs
A new book can mean everything. It can transport you to a new world, untouched by your reality; it can comfort you; it can teach you. From novels to textbooks, international book donation programs help to shape our world and educate those who its words touch.

International Book Donation Programs

International book donation programs are a beautiful thing. They are run by some of the most powerful organizations in the world, for example the World Bank, or by grassroots movements. According to the World Bank, the world literacy rate is at 86 percent, the highest it has ever been. This means it is the best time to donate books and that every book donated can make a significant impact.

Over 30 years ago, the World Bank started the International Book Bank (IBB). Its slogan, “Books save lives,” was once one of the world’s largest international book donation programs and supported smaller international book donation programs. Since its inception in 1987, the IBB has shipped over 30 million new books around the world.

Many of these books were donated by the publishers themselves and sent on to individual schools and charities to be utilized by local institutions. However, in 2016 the IBB had to change with the world. According to their website, the spread of terrorism in many of their areas of operation, coupled with rising shipping cost and publishers moving to electronic texts, meant a strategy restructure.

International Book Bank and The International Book Project

Instead of en-mass shipping, the IBB shifted its focus to smaller and more precise projects, such as Liberia 20/20. Liberia 20/20 was started in mid-2016 and is intended to strengthen the Liberian education and library system through modern times. The IBB helps to develop electronic indigenous material for children and young adults and encourage indigenous authors to share their work by teaching them about property rights and translation. 

In Kentucky, there exists a grassroots, NGO international book donation program called The International Book Project (IBP). The IBP was founded in 1966 by Harriet Van Meter and since its inception, the IBP has sent over 6 million books worldwide. By sending books around the world, the IBP sees its efforts as a way to teach Americans about their world neighbors.

With a valid mailing address, a single person or organization can have anywhere from a 100 books in separate boxes or an entire shipping container with 10,000 to 40,000 books. The IBP provides books from all different genres and types, and works closely with Habitat for Humanity and Kentucky Refugee Ministries. The Kentucky Refugee Ministries is an organization which provides assistance to refugees resettling in the United States.

Books for Africa and E-Readers

One of the largest international book donation programs in the world, and the largest one dedicated to the African continent, is Books For Africa. Over 41 million books have been shipped by Books for Africa. According to their website, they have donated three million books and 93 computers and e-readers in the last year.

Utilizing computers for reading is a practice quickly growing and vastly important. Not only are publishers focusing more and more on electronic text, but computer programs and games are also being used to learn to read. Although the feeling of a book in your hand cannot be replicated, research becomes much easier when one deals with large texts on a computer rather than in sixteen pounds of books. This reality is why many of these computers and e-readers came with books already installed.

A Book or Two

The World Bank completed many studies since the mid-1980s in African countries, and findings showed that each time students received donated books, they had a higher chance to retain what they learn and retain fluency in the language. The good news is that these are not the only programs donating and shipping books.

It is easy to donate a book or two yourself to one of these charities. The University of Buffalo has an easily navigable list of international book donation programs for you to choose from. So as you read this and think about all those extra books stuffed in your basement, remember they have the potential to do better elsewhere.

– Nick DeMarco
Photo: Flickr