Monday, December 08, 2008

Yohannes to visit Maplewood Public Library in Maplweood, New Jersey on Thursday, December 11


Ethiopia Reads Founder and CNN Hero Yohannes Gebregeorgis
Thursday, December 11
7 pm-8:30 pm
Maplewood Public Library
51 Baker Street, Maplewood, NJ

Yohannes Gebregeorgis, a native of Ethiopia and children’s literacy advocate, visits the Maplewood Public Library on Thursday, December 11, sharing his personal journey and message about the life-changing power of books. Recently nominated as a “Top Ten Hero of the Year” by CNN, Yohannes will speak about his work his work establishing libraries for children in Ethiopia, a country where books for children simply do not exist.

Growing up in rural Ethiopia with very little access to books, Gebregeorgis was 19 years old the first time he picked up a book for pleasure. This experience went on to shape his life as a literacy advocate, children’s book author, and co-founder of Ethiopia Reads, a non-profit organization based in Denver, CO and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Gebregeorgis came to the United States in 1983 seeking political asylum from the then-military dictatorship in Ethiopia. He worked as a hospital pharmacist and continued pursuing his education, earning a Bachelor’s of Arts in journalism and English literature and a Master’s degree in library science.

Later, as a children’s librarian at the San Francisco Public Library, Gebregeorgis realized there were few books published in local Ethiopian languages. So he wrote Silly Mammo, the first bilingual Amharic-English children's book.

In 2002, Gebregeorgis left his job in San Francisco and returned to Ethiopia. With 15,000 books donated by the San Francisco Children's Library, he opened a children's library on the first floor of his Addis Ababa home. The library was so deluged by children that it soon required the addition of two large tents.

In a country with an estimated 42% percent literacy rate, Gebregeorgis founded the non-profit, Ethiopia Reads, as a way to put books into the hands of children and to promote a culture of reading. Ethiopia Reads builds libraries and also oeprates a popular donkey-powered mobile library that brings books to rural children in remote villages. The organization also publishes children’s books in local Ethiopian languages and sends shipments of donated books from the United States to Ethiopia. In 2008, Ethiopia Reads will serve approximately 100,000 children.

As a “CNN Top Ten Hero of the Year,” Yohannes is recognized his work to bring positive global change by empowering children through education. Please visit to vote for Yohannes. Yohannes will be featured as part of the “All Star Heroes Tribute,” hosted by Anderson Cooper, to air to a global audience of 70 million on Thanksgiving evening.

Gebregeorgis is also a recipient of the 2008 Presidential Citation for International Innovation from the American Library Association, the first to receive this honor in its inaugural year.

Gebregeorgis lives in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where he serves as the Executive Director of Ethiopia Reads.