Could you be our new Digital Publishing Manager?
Book Dash is a South African not-for-profit, social impact publisher of new, high-quality African picturebooks for young children. Our overarching vision is that “Every child should own a hundred books by the age of five”.
All Book Dash books are created by volunteer creatives following an innovative, 12-hour publishing methodology called a “Book Dash”. The books are then published to our website, free to travel the world for all to read, access, download and adapt. In addition to this wide-scale digital distribution of our open-licensed content, we source funds and work with partners to print and distribute physical copies of the books to children to own.
We’re known for being bold, impactful, innovative and open. For more details on our work, see bookdash.org/what-we-do/how-we-do-it. We’re based in Cape Town, but work with partners nationally and internationally for a global footprint.
More about the role & how to apply
Watch the video below for all the details about who we’re looking for, and how to apply.
You can download the PDF version here.
Book Dash was thrilled to be featured as Beautiful News’ story for International Literacy Day in September. Watch the video below, or read the story here: www.beautifulnews.com/how-12-hour-book-writing-marathons-are-combating-illiteracy-south-africa
Early access to books in the home, and owning one’s own books, is a bridge to literacy, curiosity and empathy.
At Book Dash, our vision is for every child to own one hundred books by the age of five. Watch the 1 minute video to find out why, and how we’re making it happen, and then visit bookdash.org to get involved in the movement.
Jump into Mogau’s Kingdom and meet colourful characters from an array Book Dash’s free online library of African storybooks, brought to life to go on an adventure with you!
Mogau’s Kingdom is a free edutainment game available in all 11 official South African languages. The app will help your child fall in love with reading, and then give them access to a library of over 160 free African picturebooks that will support children to build confidence and reading skills even before school.
Books are more than words and pictures on paper; they are a representation of different worlds. Mogau’s Kingdom shares this amazing, adventurous, imaginative world with children, to get them excited about the world of Book Dash’s free books.
This interactive, edutainment game was created at Hack Ur Culture, by a team of volunteers who are passionate about increasing access to South Africa’s rich culture. Production from Kobold Kove in partnership with Book Dash, Credipple, the Goethe-Institut and SADiLaR.
For updates on the app, sign up here for notifications: https://mailchi.mp/52a707cee8fb/jump-in
Book Dash is a publisher with social impact at our heart. We use an innovative volunteer-driven and fast-paced model for creating affordable new African storybooks. We publish and share these books freely with the world at bookdash.org.
Book Dash exists because there is a huge inequality in
- access to books for young children,
- whose stories are featured in those books
- and, crucially for literacy development, in which languages those books are available.
Despite research showing the importance of children growing up in a print-rich, mothertongue environment, there is a huge lack of beautiful, appropriate and high-quality books in indigenous languages. This is especially true for minority languages with fewer numbers of native speakers, such as TshiVenda in South Africa with 1.3 million native speakers out of the then-52 million inhabitants (2011 census statistics).
This lack of reading materials is further compacted because the written orthography of TshiVenda has five diacritics or “glyphs” that are unique to the TshiVenda alphabet (these are markings like an accent on a letter that indicate a difference in pronunciation from the same letter when unmarked). As a result, these unique glyphs are not commonly catered for when font designers create new fonts. Until now, very few fonts had glyph sets that included all the characters that TshiVenda needs.
Quicksand (fonts.google.com/specimen/Quicksand) is a favourite font at Book Dash. Its open-licensed under the SIL Open Font License (OFL) which means anyone can use it freely (with credit). Its sans serif, geometric-shaped characters with expanded character spacing are perfect for early exposure to written language, for children as well as caregivers who may have varying levels of reading confidence. The rounded edges make it extra-friendly for young children, and the scalability means it looks crisp at all sizes.
However, Quicksand was one of those fonts that didn’t include the five unique TshiVenda glyphs. Practically, this meant that every time a Book Dash book was set in Quicksand, the TshiVenda translation had to be typeset in a different font. On our website, too, we use Quicksand and the TshiVenda titles rendered incorrectly.
Book Dash was determined to change this: Through the magic of the internet, we got in touch with one of the designers of Quicksand, Thomas Jockin (passionate type designer and founder of TypeThursday). We explained our vision, detailed the specific need and, as a type designer passionate about inclusion and equal access we found an ally.
Today, we’re absolutely thrilled to share that the official Quicksand font now includes the following glyphs unique to the TshiVenda alphabet: Ḓ Ḽ Ṋ Ṅ Ṱ ḓ ḽ ṋ ṅ ṱ .
This means that Quicksand is now more accessible for all! Anyone who creates or sets books in TshiVenda can now use these new glyphs. They’re fully integrated on the Google Fonts page for Quicksand, where you can download the beautiful font for free: fonts.google.com/specimen/Quicksand
Below, see examples of the new Quicksand glyphs used in existing Book Dash books in TshiVenda. We’ll now start the process of setting our existing TshiVenda versions in Quicksand, and we’ll be able to use it for all TshiVenda books going forward, too.
Update: Please note that this application process closed on 30 July. We are not accepting any new applications as we’re currently in the review process.
1 July 2021: Book Dash Board Member Positions advertisement
Book Dash is a South African-based social-impact publisher of children’s books. Our vision is that “Every child should own a hundred books by the age of five”, and our innovative publishing model (driven by professional creative volunteers) allows us to produce an abundance of books at a fraction of the usual cost.
We have printed and distributed 1.5 million physical books to children under five in South Africa, and our books are read by hundreds of thousands of people across the globe on free reading platforms, and adapted in many different ways. We’re a registered NPO and PBO. More at bookdash.org.
Book Dash is an ambitious organisation, established in 2014 and growing in impact yearly. To help us achieve our goals, the Book Dash team is seeking to appoint new Board members to bring fresh insights and new skill sets to the organisation. We are not necessarily looking for executive-level applicants with Board-level experience, but for capable, interested and committed people who can help us achieve our vision.
Who we’re looking for
Black South Africans* who have skills and experience in any of the following areas are invited to apply to join this award-winning non-profit organisation:
- Specialists in child development in general and ECD and early literacy in particular
- Specialists in reading promotion, language acquisition and/or multi-lingualism
- Specialists in diversifying across geographies
- Specialists in social impact with access to diverse areas of funding or partnerships
- Specialists in logistics and scaling (e.g. FMCG)
- Specialists in financial, legal or business management.
Book Dash’s core principles are listed below, and whoever wants to join our Board needs to be a believer in all of them:
- Ownership: Owning books is essential to a young child’s well-being and development.
- Abundance: A child needs to own many books in order to fall in love with reading.
- Representation: Young children need access to books in which they can read about characters that reflect their realities, in the language that they know best.
- Enjoyment: Our books are fun and engaging to create avid readers – they are not reading instruction materials.
- Openness: Book Dash books are published under a Creative Commons open license license. This means that there are no rights to sell, and no option of exclusivity: the books are a gift to the world, and are free for anyone to use, thereby drastically increasing their reach.
- Early impact: The earlier the intervention, the bigger the impact.
About the role
- Board members are not paid for their time and input.
- There are two scheduled Board meetings per year, as well as some subcommittee work.
- All meetings and work is conducted online, so candidates can be based anywhere, but would need reliable access to the internet.
- Terms for Board Members are 3 years long, with an initial probation period.
We are open to applications from people who believe in what we do, and feel that they can contribute meaningfully.
Process to apply
If you are interested in joining the Book Dash Board, please send a letter of motivation to firstname.lastname@example.org. In the letter, please highlight relevant experience, explain why you would like to join the Book Dash Board, and what contribution you think you would make. You can include your CV should you wish, but should assume that we might only read your letter of motivation in the initial selection process.
We reserve the right to not appoint anyone.
*Although this is not a B-BBEE position, Book Dash is committed to increasing our diversity in decision-making positions in the organisation, and this includes (but is not limited to) racial diversity. As a result, we are seeking candidates as per the B-BBEE Act guidelines laid out in the act and detailed below:
“Black people is a generic term which means Africans, Coloureds and Indians–
- Who are citizens of the Republic of South Africa by birth or descent; or
- Who became citizens of the Republic of South Africa by naturalization.”
EARLY-YEARS LITERACY INTERVENTION SET TO SUPPORT CHILDREN IN RURAL EASTERN CAPE
The foundations of language are laid and set before children reach Grade R, when, based on this, researchers can predict children’s future educational attainment. However, with attendance at early childhood development centres lower than it has been in the past 18 years, many young South African children are facing a gloomy future. Three literacy NGOs, supported by Liberty Community Trust, have teamed up to intervene.
The first five years of life are the most significant for brain development. This is the time when the foundations for language and life are laid down and when for children to thrive later in school and in life, they need to be surrounded by caring adults who create safe and stimulating environments for them, that are filled with plenty of opportunities to play and imagine and to listen to, think and talk about stories.
Each one of us is a storyteller in some form, or another and stories could well turn out to be South Africa’s secret weapon. Great and well-told stories motivate children to learn to read and write for themselves and are what set the vital foundation of literacy learning as well as cognitive and emotional development. Research shows us that we cannot wait for children to learn the mechanics of reading at schools. For the effects of a literacy intervention to be meaningful and lasting – so that the results are felt well into the school years and adulthood – it needs to take place in the early years.
Yes, this includes increasing the availability of good quality books and stories in children’s home languages for parents and community members to share with their children, but it also means ensuring that the adults who surround these children understand why, or at least accept, that telling and reading stories with children is extremely valuable – and essential – for their future educational success and for the success of the community.
With most learners leaving the school system without the basic skills they need to succeed in school and in life – remember: 78% of Grade 4 children cannot read for meaning and close to one-third of children are functionally illiterate and live in rural areas – these communities remain trapped in a cycle of poverty.
Yizani Sifunde (isiXhosa for ‘Come, let’s read) – a newly launched literacy project from partners Nal’ibali, Book Dash and Wordworks (and funded by Community Liberty Trust), understands this.
The initiative will be injecting 100 000 brand-new locally-contextualised story books in children’s home languages into communities in Queenstown, East London and Tsholomqa in 2021 with the majority of these being for children to take home. It will also be supporting practitioners at 40 ECD centres to make use of a literacy-themed learning programme and providing practical training and materials to caregivers and interested members of the community on how to run extra mural reading clubs.
Ultimately, Yizani Sifunde aims to significantly change the life trajectory of young children by helping parents and community members value their authentic teaching roles and reawakening a love of stories.
Regular reading and story sharing in home and community settings (together with programmatic support as well as a vibrant media campaign) will influence children’s oral and written language development as well as the confidence, understanding and practices of all those who are involved so they are better placed to spark their children’s potential long before they start school – whether, COVID allowing, these institutions are open or not.
“Open source is based on freedom. That freedom includes access to the source code, freedom to collaborate, and ultimately, the freedom to innovate.” — https://thenewstack.io/power-community-open-source/
New! Watch our discussion with some of the partners listed below on the ‘Power of Open’ at the 2020 Open Publishing Fest here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XM5bptZVHbw.
Book Dash is defined by its philosophy of open source: our books are published under an open license (Creative Commons Attribution 4.0), our sources files are open (on the website for anyone to access and use) and our model of content creation is open (the 12-hour Book Dash events have been replicated in Nigeria, Angola, Laos, Cambodia and France). The power of open extends our reach logarithmically: it enables our books to be read by people in places that we would never have reached if we had a more traditional approach to copyright. Anyone can adapt, translate, animate, download, print, distribute and even sell our books, because our license imposes no restrictions.
In this newsletter we have rounded up a few examples of the interesting, weird and wonderful amplifications, applications and adaptations of the Book Dash books, powered by our open philosophy.
1. Our books are published on 100+ reading platforms and apps
At least 50 free reading platforms regularly publish our stories. They appreciate the quality and the ease of using our books, and their readers love the fact that our books show a diverse society where children can recognise themselves in the pages, and have fun. These websites are truly international; readers from India, South America, the UK, Japan, etc contact us to say that they love reading our books.
To single out a few of the 50+ sites where Book Dash books are regularly featured:
- Close to home in South Africa we have Parent 24 (https://www.parent24.com/Storytime)
- Storyberries is a popular Australian free reading site that includes Book Dash books in their category “5 minute stories”. It’s not unusual for a Book Dash book to get 5,000 views a day and to be shared 500+ times by the readers.
- Storyweaver features most of our books, including many of our African language translations.
- World Reader features many of our books; 2 Book Dash books were in Worldreader’s top 10 most-read books of 2018 overall and 3 were in the children’s category.
- African Storybook also features a large variety of our books, including translations.
2. Many communities do their own translations of our books
Book Dash publishes versions of our books in South African languages. These versions are often created by Nal’ibali’s excellent team of language practitioners. The open license also allows language communities across the globe that love our books to do their own translations, thereby adding to the available reading resources in their language.
Some interesting examples are:
- A South African living in Norway was disappointed by the homogeneously white characters she encountered in Norwegian children’s books. So she translated and printed some Book Dash books in Norwegian.
- The organisation Gahwara translates books into Farsi, Pashto and Uzbek. Some Book Dash books are available in these languages, and are being read and loved by kids in Afghanistan.
- A group of language activists in Italy who are rekindling the minority Lombard language has translated some of our books into Lombard.
Sleepy Mr Sloth in English, with its Persian translation
3. Our books are adapted for other media
- Our books are used in storytime channels on Youtube.
- Narrated versions of our books are available on Youtube.
- Cut-out animations of our books done by the International Centre for Free and Open Source Software in Kerala, India are available on Youtube.
- Audiobooks done by Storyberries are available on their website.
- The Handlab at the University of Stellenbosch has versioned some Book Dash books into South African sign language.
These are just a few examples of how the power of open allows our books to travel without boundaries, bringing joy to more and more parents and children all over the world. We give the last word to the Global Book Alliance, (funded by DFID, Norad, World Bank, UNICEF, Australian Aid and others), on Twitter: “Groups like Book Dash are changing the shape of global book markets with open access, high quality books to download print and share”
We sometimes get puzzled looks from people when we share our vision with them: every child should own a hundred books by the age of five. Why so many books? Why must they own them? And why so early? In this newsletter, we share three of the important principles that inform our vision and guide our work, and the research that underpins it.
1. Book ownership
Book Dash works to improve book ownership, and we’re often asked whether access to books isn’t enough to open up the world to children. While access to books through school and community libraries is very important, research indicates that owning many books can completely alter a child’s future prospects, especially children born into contexts of poverty.
M.D.R. Evans is a professor of Sociology at the University of Nevada. Her work is key to our thinking about book ownership. With colleagues from across the world, she conducted a study of 27 countries to explore how a “scholarly culture” and its associated cultural capital is created, as this has been shown to be pivotal to academic success. Here’s what they found: “Having many books in the home gives children a measurable advantage at school, equal to 3.2 more years of schooling. Books in the home are the single biggest indicator of academic success, equal to parents’ education, and more so than socio-economic status”. In a profoundly unequal society like South Africa, this is a game changer.
2. Early intervention
The second body of research has to do with when children should start owning books, and when the adults in their lives should start reading to them. Logically, we should only give children books when they can read, right? Wrong! The earlier we invest in at-risk children, the bigger their chance of success, and the greater the social and economic benefit to society. James Heckman is a Nobel Prize-winning economist at the University of Chicago. His “Heckman Equation” is very simple: The earlier the investment in disadvantaged children, the higher the return to society.
Currently society invests too much money on later development when it is often too late to provide great value. The economic benefits of investing early and building skill upon skill to provide greater success to more children and greater productivity, are clearly demonstrated in his work. Heckman’s work is one of the research pillars that informs UNICEF’s “Nurturing Care Framework” that promotes physical, emotional, social and cognitive development in very young children as a pathway towards peaceful and sustainable societies, and to eliminate extreme poverty and inequality.
In 2016, Professor Lynne Murray led a team of local and international child development experts in conducting a randomised controlled trial in Khayelitsha, working with mothers and their 14-16 month old infants. Some of the findings were that reading with babies and very young children is of significant benefit to the children’s attention span, language development, and social understanding, thereby improving their school-readiness and future chances of academic success… years before they enter formal schooling!
This is why Book Dash believes that each child should own one hundred books by the age of five, and why we’ve re-imagined the publishing process to make books far more cost-effective to produce, print and give away.
3. Book Gifting
We know that 58% of all households in South Africa do not own a single leisure book, and while the reasons for this may be complex, the cost of books is a key reason that books remain an unattainable luxury for many families. In addition, the pivotal role of books and reading in early stimulation and flourishing children is not universally understood.
This is true not only for South Africa, but throughout the world. From this reality a worldwide network of book gifting organisations was born, like the UK Book Trust, Boekstart in the Netherlands, and similar organisations in the USA, Australia, Japan, Finland, etc. All these organisations acknowledge the importance of giving books to families who cannot afford to buy them, and promoting positive messages around reading with children from early on. Most of these organisations are wholly or partially subsidised by their governments. In South Africa this is not the case, and that’s where Book Dash comes in.
Through innovative partnerships, we donate our books to children across the country to own. For example, in 2019, MySchool partnered with us to sponsor 50,000 books to be added to Santa Shoeboxes that are distributed to disadvantaged children. The wonderful Santa Shoeboxes go directly into the homes of these children, and by adding books to the box full of gifts, we are not only adding to the children’s delight, we are also providing the seed of a home library of books.
Join the movement
We are acutely aware that there are millions of children who are not yet reached by what we do, and that the need is big. This inspires us to do more, and we invite you to join the movement to put 100 books in every child’s home. Visit us at bookdash.org to find out how you can help.
A recent collaboration with the DG Murray Trust and a team of CodeSpace Academy graduates means that all 500 Book Dash children’s books, in a variety of South Africa’s languages, are now available data-free right here on the Book Dash website.
Book Dash want to increase ownership and access to high-quality, home-language children’s books for all, knowing the positive effect this has on literacy development and lifelong prospering. We create new African children’s books by working with creative volunteers at Book Dash events, to quickly produce and publish beautiful, open-licensed picturebooks. These are printed and distributed to children around the country to own, and all versions are also now available digitally on the website to read, download or adapt.
Recently, Book Dash’s site has been made data-free on a variety of networks thanks to the work from the DG Murray Trust to encourage Internet Service Providers to zero-rate educational, public beneficiary websites. The books are also freely accessible through Moya Messenger, South Africa’s data-free messenger app.
The project worked to make an additional 350 language-versions of Book Dash books available directly on the Book Dash WordPress site. This means that now the books can be read data-free for South African users on the associated ISPs. This unlocks access to valuable reading material for all from behind the data-barrier, and the user-experience of the Book Dash site is greatly enhanced for all readers. There are also tips for reading with young children available in 11 languages, too.
The Creative Commons open-license means that all the Book Dash books can be viewed, read and downloaded by anyone. The books can also be re-shared on other digital reading platforms, and reach readers all over the world in this way. Over a hundred platforms globally already re-use, re-share and re-mix the Book Dash books to reach more children and make a positive change to the global literacy crisis.
There are 500 books available in total on the Book Dash website, spread across 11 of South Africa’s languages. Reducing barriers to accessing high-quality, appropriate content is key to addressing illiteracy worldwide. Improving access to books from early ages gives a child a measurable advantage before, during and after formal schooling.
Read the books today, go to bookdash.org/books!
Book Dash is looking for a small team of tech-savvy graduates or freelancers available immediately for short term contract work within the month of February.
The job would comprise work on our WordPress site to upload all existing African language versions of our books for the world to enjoy.
There is no software development work or experience required for this job and you don’t need to be able to speak an African language to be able to do the work.
Book Dash is a South African, not-for-profit publisher of beautiful, African picturebooks for all to enjoy. Our vision is that “Every child should own one hundred books by the age of five”. You can read the books here: bookdash.org/books.
You’d be an ideal fit for this job if:
- You’re already familiar with working in WordPress
- You’re meticulous, pay attention to detail and enjoy following a structured workflow
- You have your own laptop and would be willing and able to work from a COVID-safe office location in Salt River, Cape Town
- Are available to work between the 17th – 23rd February, ideally full days (at least 25 hours, potentially more)
- Enjoy working in a team to get a job done
- Ideally, our vision resonates with you and you value the power of books to change lives
- Please note that there is no software development involved in this job, and experience in that field is therefore not required but an understanding of how websites work is preferable.
Outline of the job:
- You’ll be uploading multiple African language versions of Book Dash’s extensive library of picturebooks to our website, allowing them to be read by anyone
- You’ll need to follow the workflow provided and report to a team leader, correcting errors that come up
- You would be paid a rate/book uploaded and report on your progress to a team leader
- You’ll be provided with training, expected to have your own machine and ideally be able to work from a COVID-safe office in Salt River, Cape Town
- We’re also seeking a Team Leader who would have additional quality assurance responsibilities, and be responsible for keeping the project on track and the team working according to timelines provided.
Interested candidates must please email email@example.com with:
- your full name as the subject line
- a short explanation of prior experience, especially WordPress experience, and experience working in or managing a team, that would make you a good fit for this job
- at least one reference or testimonial from someone for whom you’ve done similar work
- any qualifications you feel relevant
Expression of interest is due by 3pm on Friday, 12th February 2021, but we may fill up spaces as appropriate candidates apply.
Questions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
A few key players at Book Dash reflect on what they’ve learnt over the last 12 months of the coronavirus pandemic and the impact in the worlds of publishing, representation and social impact.
The significance of diversity and representation in what we read
2020 has taught me that in the midst of so much chaos, confusion and hurt in the world, it is important more than ever to instil love and inspire acceptance into the hearts of everyone we can. A perfect place to start is with our children.
As a child growing up in South Africa, very little if at all, that I read and saw in the media represented my reality. There was no white Christmas nor was there a subway like the one in Manhattan or yellow cabs to get me from point A to point B.
What became clear though as I grew older, was that the media I consumed used examples drawn from totally different set of life experiences. No one “out there” looked or sounded anything like me. The subtle message I received was that my own life experiences didn’t matter.
Today as a parent and writer, I have a responsibility to children to make sure that no other child feels like they do not belong or matter. Thanks to Book Dash that we can strive to create a world in which all children can see themselves represented in the pages of a book while also making these books accessible to them in their home languages.
Mathapelo Mabaso is a brand strategist and volunteer writer for Book Dash
The necessity of physical reading material in the home
There is consensus that in 2020, most children worldwide spent too much time in front of screens as families under lockdown tried to keep children occupied and stimulated, while parents worked from home. Although online resources were a godsend, the pandemic also highlighted the importance of having printed books in the home.
Firstly, there is the scientific argument: the research is clear on the advantage of printed books over screen time for preschool children. A child’s brain develops the most rapidly in the first 5 years of their life, and reading printed books helps to increase and organise the brain’s white matter, setting the brain up for optimal learning going forward. “When it came to screen time, kids who used screens more than one hour a day had poorer emerging literacy skills, less ability to use expressive language, and tested lower on the ability to rapidly name objects. In contrast, children who frequently read books with their caregiver scored higher on cognitive tests.” This is the conclusion of clinicians at the Cincinnati Children’s Reading and Literacy Discovery Center.
Secondly, there is the reality of many South African that are excluded from using online resources because of issues around digital access, the high cost of data and the low penetration of smart devices. Printed books play a crucial role in supporting preschool children’s development and preparing them for school, and never more so than during lockdown when many of Book Dash’s ECD distribution partners managed to keep sending our books home to the children in their care. The consistent feedback from families is that these books have been a refuge for children and adults alike, creating a spark for a shared, fun activity that strengthens emotional bonds and increases feelings of security.
Dorette Louw is a Director at Book Dash
The poignancy of generosity and an “open” approach to resources
If there were ever a time to consider generosity as a doctrine, it was 2020. As Arundhati Roy said in an interview in April, “This virus has worked like an MRI or like an X-Ray on societies & countries and exposed their barebones … amplifying all the weaknesses, all the injustices…” Individuals, organisations and countries were forced to recognise rampant inequality and make a choice: Some doubled-down and stockpiled resources for themselves, while many chose to share what they had in the hopes of creating a more equal experience for all, enacting the adage “When you have more than you need, build a longer table, not a higher fence.”
A large number of institutions, especially those in education chose to reduce barriers to their content this year — embracing a spirit of sharing that for-profit businesses don’t often consider in their models. Snapplify opened their library of local educational materials for free access and Tanzanian-based children’s edutainment powerhouse Ubongo chose to reclassify all their content from copyright-protected to Creative Commons licensing. They joined a league of organisations worldwide who create and share and advocate for high quality “open educational resources” (OER).
At Book Dash, this doctrine of “open” has defined our approach from the start: We always knew that an open license would enable exponential impact for our beautiful African picturebooks to travel unbounded, even when we can’t. This means the books are free to read, download, adapt and print. We were inspired early on by organisations leading the way and we were lucky enough to present alongside some at celebrations of “open” like the Open Publishing Fest, hosted by leaders in the industry at the Coko Foundation. I’d love to see this spirit of generosity continue past the current time of the pandemic-induced crisis, truly believing we’re all richer when resources are shared.
Julia Norrish is the Executive Director at Book Dash
Online reading practices and the importance of digital accessibility
At the beginning of what promises to be another challenging year, what is clearer now than ever before is the importance that agility, grit, and a collective response plays in overcoming the new and existing challenges faced in learning and literacy, globally.
Accessibility to digital tools and content was imperative to continued learning this year, and it’s encouraging to see how these have been embraced. Book Dash’s website visits alone increased by 500% compared to 2019. Hundreds of thousands of young readers are now interacting with digital reading and learning tools, daily. Many of them are using these tools for the first time, and in situations where they have far less support than they would have had ordinarily. Through this, we’ve learned that access to digital content and tools is not enough. We’ve also seen how important engaged and empowered teachers, parents and other care-givers are to building reading communities – whether these are facilitated with hardcopy or digital books.
Coming together, listening to each other, and adapting to change quickly and effectively is crucial to establishing successful online reading practices, regardless of whether you are building the tools, implementing them, or using them day-to-day.
Tarryn-Anne Anderson is a founding member of Book Dash and the Growth Director at Snapplify.
The importance of agility and adaptability in social impact businesses
While the social sector is accustomed to, even built for, turbulence, 2020 was a shock. Funding streams that seemed secure were suddenly diverted – rightly so – to COVID19 relief efforts and usual channels to communities were severely disrupted.
Social enterprises were met with mixed messages – some funders wanted an immediate pivot to dealing with COVID issues, while others praised organisations that promised to stay true to mission while drastically cutting back on staff and projects. It was a difficult environment in which to keep your head, as the obvious and drastic needs of communities, the frantic reprioritisation by funders, the restrictions on movement and commerce, and the general psychological stress merged in a pressure cooker.
Despite this, many organisations managed to react with grace, courage and imagination. They made tough decisions, drew on reserves (financial and emotional), initiated collaborative conversations with funders, sought out new partners, redesigned programme delivery, and reimagined the value they could bring to the people they serve.
Many organisations – early childhood development centres are an example – simply couldn’t respond in this way. And movements have built up around them to try to claw back what has been lost this year. If there is any silver lining, it’s the widespread realisation that services like these and the impact they have on children’s lives cannot be underestimated.
Social impact businesses have learned valuable lessons this year: that agility and adaptability are necessities, that resilience and mutual support are critical, and that they are stronger and more essential than they ever knew.
Michelle Matthews is a founding member of Book Dash and Director of Product at Viridian
A virtual party
On December 3rd, the Book Dash community celebrated a momentous milestone for our organisation: on 20 November the 1 millionth copy of a Book Dash book was given to a child, and we threw a virtual party to mark it.
More than 100 guests from all over the world joined the event, which was live-streamed from the Book Dash offices in Cape Town. The team had asked some supporters like donors, creatives, partners and superfans to send in video messages before the event, and it was lovely to watch those together.
The Founders of Book Dash, streaming in live from their homes, told the story of the conception, birth and growth of Book Dash, and we watched a video condensing our 6-year journey into a 5-minute good-news story. You can watch the video here.
The first book ever published by Book Dash in 2014 is a funny story called Sleepy Mr Sloth. Our Book Dash book-creation events always end with storytime, where teams share the new books they created. Last night we kept the tradition alive, and ended our celebration with Aidan, the 8-year old son of Arthur and Michelle (two of the Book Dash founders) reading Sleepy Mr Sloth.
The 1 millionth Book Dash book
Staying with 8-year old boys: another 8-year old boy was the recipient of the 1 millionth Book Dash book. Iyanda lives in KZN, and he received two Book Dash books in his Santa Shoebox, one with a sparkly golden sticker on it! This year, MySchoolMyVillageMyPlanet funded the printing of 100,000 Book Dash books to be included in 2020’s Santa Shoeboxes.
This is a picture of Iyanda, with the 1 millionth book – which happened to be packed in the 1 millionth Santa Shoebox given to children. What are the chances of two partner organisations (Book Dash and Santa Shoebox) both reaching their 1 million milestones at the same time?
Our vision is for each child to own one hundred books by the age of five. There are about 6 million children aged 5 and under in South Africa, which means that for us to achieve our vision, we have to distribute many more millions of books, and keep on doing this forever and ever.
We are up for the challenge, especially with supporters like you. But last night we paused to raise a glass to everyone who helped us achieve the first one million books. Thank you for all your support, and please do stick around for all the new chapters in our story.
Book Dash is honoured to announce that our website and catalogue of books has been vetted as one of the inaugural Digital Public Goods in the Foundational Literacy and Early Grade Reading category.
A Digital Public Good is an openly-licensed technology, data model, or content that is of high relevance for attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Digital Public Good Alliance, that was set up to identify such open digital goods in line with a recommendation from the UN Secretary General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation.
We’re glad that this recognition will allow more people to know about, access and enjoy our collection of 140+ beautiful, African stories that are free for all.
For more information about this recognition, read the Medium article announcement from the Digital Public Goods Alliance: https://medium.com/digital-public-goods/announcing-the-first-vetted-digital-public-goods-for-foundational-literacy-and-early-grade-reading-1f5c371a50d3
Thess events were recorded as part of the Open Publishing Fest, 2020 – a decentralized public event that brings together communities supporting open source software, open content, and open publishing models. For more visit: openpublishingfest.org
Book Dash was involved in three exciting events:
- Book Dash and the power of open: We gather a couple of our incredible partners who re-use Book Dash books in all sorts of wonderful ways to tell us how the open license we use, powers their work too. Watch the recorded session here: youtu.be/XM5bptZVHbw
- Productivity, Sprints and Remoteness: We reflect on our Virtual Book Dash with Book Sprints and learn from their experience with virtual, fast-paced book-making, too. If you’re interested in the processes and tricks behind collaborative, book-making on a deadline, check out the session recording here: youtu.be/BfNbgG6FQBU
- Book Dash: Origins and Evolution: the Book Dash founders speak about the origins and the evolution of the innovative Book Dash model for producing new, African storybooks in just twelve hours. Missed it? Watch the event: youtu.be/cEAB7M7YDvU
While the country is in lockdown and places of learning are closed, many organisations are doing what they can to support young children and families. This often involves distributing resource packs to keep children stimulated at home until they can return to schools and ECD centres. Books are ideal for this as they provide impulses for engaging interactions and support holistic development of young children.
Book Dash wants to support these efforts as much as possible, through donations to partners but also by offering our books at R10 a copy (50% discount) to any organisation that will be distributing books to children and families during the lockdown period.
If you’re interested, email email@example.com to request a stocklist. Please also have a look at the terms and conditions below.
If you’d like to support, but aren’t involved in resource distribution, you can still donate and assist us in getting books out to our network of approved partners who are supporting families in this way. Or, you could purchase books on behalf of an organisation that you know and we’ll deliver to them.
Terms and conditions:
- This offer will run until the end of May or while stocks last.
- Sales will be managed on a first come, first served basis.
- Minimum order is 100 books and orders are limited to 1,000 books per customer. If you’re interested in larger orders, let us know.
- Books should reach children and families as soon as possible, and be given away at no cost to the recipient.
- Delivery is not included and will be quoted for depending on quantity and delivery destination.
- Deliveries happen once a week, and order and payment needs to be finalised by Friday, for dispatch on the following Monday.
- Valid within South Africa only.
In line with our vision that every child should own a hundred books by the age of five, we spend a lot of time thinking about how we can reach more children with more books.
One of the challenges in making books affordable, is to print large enough volumes of one title to get the benefit of the economies of scale. We have experimented successfully with a mechanism that we call a “collaborative print run”.
Funding from donors is used as the base from which to leverage the print run. Together with the funder, we select appropriate titles from our library. An important step here is to maintain a good balance between variety of titles, and volumes per title. This should be informed by the funding available, and the tipping point of volume versus price. For Book Dash, we aim to never pay more than R10.00 per book.
The next step is to make the circle bigger: we invite partners and the public to send us pre-orders for the quantities of the selected titles that they would like. Sometimes these orders are as small as a few hundred copies, sometimes thousands. We put together the small orders, and voilà: we have large enough volumes to offer all parties an exceptionally low unit cost. Everyone wins.
If you are interested in sponsoring a print run of our books, speak to us and if you’d like to be informed when the next collaborative print runs happen, follow us on Twitter, Facebook or join the mailing list.
We’re fully registered with MySchool, meaning it’s quick and easy to add us to your profile.
Print copies of Book Dash titles can be purchased from the following South African booksellers:
If you are looking for a title that is not available with these booksellers, or if you would like to stock Book Dash titles in your store, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Book Dash books are sometimes rendered as audiobooks. Like the ebooks, these are free to listen to online, download and share under a Creative Commons Attribution licence.
If you would like to add an open source recording of a Book Dash book to this collection, please contact email@example.com.