Ethiopia Reads News

Wednesday, April 15, 2009



Last week, children in Ethiopia celebrated Ethiopian Children's Book, a festival of reading, crafts, theater and storytelling presented by Ethiopia Reads. To mark the sixth anniversary of this wonderful tradition, Ethiopia Reads is thrilled to announce the first annual Ethiopia Reads Book Week USA, May 11-15, a celebration to encourage reading and build connections between children in the United States and Ethiopia. Students, teachers, librarians and parents across the country will join in this exciting and fun celebration of books, which supports Ethiopia Reads' literacy and library programs.

Ethiopia Reads is proud to present Book Week USA with Scholastic Literacy Partners, which has one simple goal: to assist literacy programs in their efforts to put more books into the hands of children in need.Proceeds from Ethiopia Reads Book Week will be used to purchase and ship thousands of first-rate, brand new books from Scholastic, the global children's publishing, education and media company, at discounted rates.

Here's how YOU can participate in Ethiopia Reads Book Week USA, a celebration of books and reading:

Bring Ethiopia Reads into the classroom, with fun activities and games to bring the beautiful language and culture of Ethiopia to your school.

Lead a fundraising project to support Ethiopia Reads' library programs.

Join the Friends of Ethiopia Reads School Partner Network.

Make a donation to keep Book Week going for years to come.

Visit Ethiopia Reads online to download Book Week materials and get involved.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Inauguration Celebration Continues: Ethiopia Reads Launches Three New Donkey Mobile Libraries!

Ethiopia Reads is thrilled to announce the opening of three new donkey mobile libraries, which officially went into service during a gala inauguaration ceremony on January 10. Established with the generous support of Rotary International, American Jewish World Service and the Ambassadors and Heads of Mission Spouses Group, the libraries will bring books and learning materials to children who live in rural areas surrounding Awassa, an agricultural town in southern Ethiopia.

Ethiopia Reads established Ethiopia's first Donkey Mobile Library in 2005. Since then, the traveling library has served thousands of boys and girls, registering an average of 35,000 visits per year. Ingenious in its design, the Donkey Mobile Library is a sturdy, portable cart that houses hundreds of children's books in both English and local Ethiopian languages. The Donkey Mobile Library has introduced reading and books to children in some of the poorest areas of Ethiopia, a country where 99% of schools have no books.

Please watch the slideshow to get in on the action!

The Donkey Mobile Library Program will continue to grow with your support. Please make a donation today to keep the wheels spinning.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Join Jane Kurtz for the debut of "Fire on the Mountain: The Musical" in Boston and Newark February 17 and 21!

Ethiopia Reads is thrilled to announce that a musical adaptation of FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN, a book by Jane Kurtz, opens this month. This classic African folktale is given new life as a spirited four person musical theatre production by our friend Jonathan Luks of Flying Ship Productions.

Join Jane for performances of FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN! After each performance, Jane will sign copies of her books, with proceeds benefiting Ethiopia Reads.

Tuesday, February 17
The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
10:30 am
Columbia Point
Boston, MA 02125
http://tinyurl. com/ycx8jx

Saturday, February 21
Newark, NJ
Newark Public Library
2 pm
Main Library
Centennial Hall
5 Washington Street
Newark, NJ

Journey with Alemayu, a young shepherd boy, through the vast mountains as he searches for his sister and learns life’s lessons of character, honesty, courage and love. Award winning children’s author Jane Kurtz first brought this venerable tale to American readers after hearing it while growing up in Ethiopia. The rich cultural heritage of this African region influences the music, staging, costuming and scenery in this wonderful, uplifting new musical.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Donkey Mobile Library Featured on the BBC!
Follow the link to watch the video

Donkeys tackle Ethiopian literacy

By Elizabeth Blunt
BBC News, Awassa

In a bamboo and matting shelter on the edge of the town of Awassa, rows of tiny children are struggling with Ethiopia's fiendishly complicated Amharic alphabet.

"Huh - HUH! Hoo - HOO! Hee - HEE! Ha - HA!" they chant in unision after their teacher.

Their teacher is a small boy, scarcely older than they are, but he moves his pointer confidently along the chart showing the 256 different characters, and the children shout back.

"Ma - MA! Meh - MEH! Mi -MI! Mo - MO!"

Reading is a real challenge for children here, and not just because of the script.

When they have mastered the basics, what can they practice on?

The range of children's books published in Amharic is limited, and for many of the children Amharic is not even their first language.

There are seldom any books at home, and often very few at school either.

But these children in Awassa are lucky.

Silly Mammo

If you leave them practising their letters and walk out through the garden gate, you will find another group of children, clustered under a shady tree, absorbed in their books.

Parked alongside them is a brightly painted wooden cart, with sides which fold down to display the shelves of books.

The two donkeys which pull it are resting in another patch of shade.

This is Ethiopia's first Donkey Mobile Library - the brainchild of an expatriate Ethiopian now living in the United States.

His Ethiopian Books for Children and Educational Foundation (EBCEF) is also a publishing house and has produced many of the books on the shelves of the cart.

Some children are enjoying the lovely illustrations in the foreign picture books, which the library also carries, but their English is limited or non-existent.

Mostly they prefer the locally published, Amharic language stories.

It turns out that everybody's favourite is the story of Silly Mammo, familiar to generations of Ethiopian children.

Mammo is a well-meaning young man, but very silly. When his mother finally finds him a job, he drops the coins he earns and loses them.

"Next time, put your pay carefully in your pocket," says his mother.

The following day the farmer, instead of money, pays him with milk, with predictable consequences.

"No, no, no," says his mother, when she sees his dripping clothes.

"When he gives you something like that, you should carry it on your head," she says.

But Mammo's next wages come in the form of fresh butter wrapped in green leaves.

The children giggle delightedly at the drawing of the blazing sun, and the melting butter running down Mammo's face.


Silly Mammo is the first book that the EBCEF has published in three languages: alongside the pictures are parallel texts in English, Amharic and Sidama - the local language of the region round Awassa.

By mid-afternoon it is time for the mobile library to pack up and move on to its next destination.

The children help pile their stools into the cart and the donkeys are harnessed up between the shafts.

The donkeys are not just a gimmick - in rural Ethiopia and provincial towns like Awassa, horse-drawn buggies and donkey carts are a normal form of transport.

But the project also tries to teach the children about respect for animals.

Donkeys here are generally despised and often ill-treated, but these two working donkeys wear the colourful embroidered trappings usually reserved for riding horses.

Alongside them walks the project's mascot - Queen Helena, the queen of all the donkeys.

She is an old lady now, but is decked out in a red silk saddle cloth, and a red and gold crown.


The donkey cart moves off down the street, surrounded by a swarm of delighted children, and eventually turns into the gate of a local primary school.

More excited children run out to meet it.
Like many state primary schools in Ethiopia, this one has no library of its own.

The staff say the children have made great strides in their learning and in their behaviour since getting regular access to books.

Most are from poor families; for them, even the modestly priced picture books published by EBCEF cost something like two days' wages.

In the centre of Awassa, and in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, EBCEF also runs conventional children's libraries, busy in the late afternoon with school children reading and drawing and doing their homework.

All the children are completely absorbed in what they are doing and treat the books with great care.

Out in the countryside, projects are under way to provide school libraries in villages where there have been none before.

For those children with access to books, the ritual chanting of the alphabet can be just the first step on the path to a lifetime of reading and learning.

For EBCEF's project manager in Awassa, Mezrasha Kibret, books are the key to everything.

"If we are interested in changing the world," he says, "then we have to read."

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2009/01/08 11:44:03 GMT


Friday, December 12, 2008

Friends in NYC and DC! Two chances to meet Ato Yohannes this week.

To our friends in the New York and Washington, DC areas:

You are invited to meet Ato Yohannes and support Ethiopia Reads! Come hear Ato Yohannes speak about Ethiopia Reads recent work. Find out how you can get more involed.

New York City:
Saturday, December 13 at 2:00 PM at Cafe Addis (435 West 125 Street, NY, 10027). Phone: 212-663-0553

DC Area:
Wednesday December 17 - 7:00pm Abol Restaurant, 8628 Colesville Road (across the street from the AFI Silver Theater) Silver Spring, MD 20910

(RSVP: Matt Andrea 202-232-9085, Maureen Evans 301-386-5610).