What We Do
"A school without a library is like a body without a soul."
~Meriem, age 16
We develop English libraries in under-resourced communities of Morocco, often where there have been no libraries before. We collaborate with local teachers to understand the desire, and then curate and ship a high-quality collection of new books and other materials (like games and puzzles) appropriate for that context. We usually work with public high schools, though we sometimes also develop community libraries with Peace Corps volunteers. Students often do the hard work of transforming an old space into a welcoming new library.
Same Wall, Same Student, 5 Months Later
English, Gender Equity, and Social Advancement
"Our main objective is to give the opportunity to females and underprivileged students to read and profit from the school library."
— Mohamed Khettouch
Lycée Mohamed V
Many young people in Morocco today want to learn English — and yet there are very few resources to make it possible, especially in the remote areas where we work. In this amazing culture that excels in multilingualism, many see English as a way to grow and to engage with the broader world.
These libraries operate hand in hand with after-school English clubs that are popping up around the country in the most remote and surprising locations, thanks to a tireless network of Moroccan teachers who are giving their own time to provide enrichment to underprivileged yet extremely motivated students. These are students who hope to go to college and will often be the first in their families to do so. In many cases, their families not long ago lived a more nomadic way of life.
Female students are especially embracing these new opportunities. Throughout Morocco, female participation in secondary school is lower for girls than for boys. This is especially acute in the rural areas, where the participation of girls in secondary school in 2015 was 26%, compared with 79% for boys. In these rural after-school English clubs, by contrast, girls are over 65% of the participants — attracted by the supportive environment of the club and the rich offerings of the library. Teachers frequently report that once their club has a library, more girls get involved.
Each Library Fits Its Context
We usually start with a core set of 60+ books, and then with feedback from teachers and students expand this to more, working with the local reading levels and special interests. We also consider the space we have to work with. In the deep south of Morocco, where several schools are sharing books, the library is mobile. Increasingly, these reading clubs and libraries are also used to engage students in local environmental and community service projects, as a way to build language skills and provide meaningful activity at the same time, so students are inspired to stay in school.
Children Are Included
Although the core audience for the libraries is middle school and high school students, we send children's picture books and early readers to every library. It is our hope that young children will visit and enjoy these libraries and that older students will bring books home to share with their younger siblings.
Anyone can enjoy children's picture books, regardless of their reading level in English — or any other language. The idea is to bring books into life at a young age, to start a lifelong love of reading and learning.
About the Books
Our philosophy is to send literature and nonfiction that we know to be excellent, in a variety of levels and genres, and we partner with bookstores in the San Francisco Bay Area to get great books — all new and at an educator's discount. As an example, these photos show some of the books we sent to a teacher in Taroudant.
Books are selected in consultation with the teachers, all of whom are Moroccan.