Ready Set Go Books: A Literacy Project in Ethiopia
by: Hanna Griffing
Note: This post contains links to sites that promote the purchase of Ready Set Go Books. All books sold fund Open Hearts Big Dreams programs.
Many of my most cherished childhood memories revolve around books: being read to by my mother, choosing new books at the library, examining the pictures in books before I could read, and curling up in my bed with a book to get lost in. More than likely, my experiences sound familiar.
As a teacher and a parent, I now know that my access to reading materials helped me to become a strong reader at a young age, which also made me a good learner. Research shows that reading with family members and growing up around books are vital for children’s literacy. I grew up in a family with full bookshelves, weekly trips to the library, and new books every Christmas. I was extraordinarily blessed. Sadly, the gifts of books that I took for granted are not a part of life for every child. All over the world, there are children who have never held a book and may never even have seen a book in their local language. Open Hearts Big Dreams is trying to change that for kids in Ethiopia and invites you to be part of our work.
What are Ready Set Go Books?
Open Hearts Big Dreams is a non-profit organization dedicated to putting books in the hands of Ethiopian children. The organization has several literacy and leadership projects, but the biggest one is Ready Set Go Books. The books are created through the work of many wonderful people and printed in Ethiopia. Our dream is “to create at least 200 unique titles and distribute 1 million or more copies to kids all over Ethiopia in their mother tongue by the end of 2024 or sooner.” We know that supporting children to become readers and giving them access to stories prepares them to grow as active members and leaders of their communities. Giving children books that are written in their local languages encourages them to read and increases literacy.
Since 2017, the organization has worked to create 125 bilingual children’s books in Amharic, Afaan Oromo, Tigrinya, Somali, Anuak, Dizin, Swahili, French, Spanish and Greek with more books and languages being planned. Ready Set Go Books have colorful illustrations by many artists, stories by award-winning children’s authors, and content that is culturally appropriate for Ethiopian children. However, while they are created with the children of Ethiopia at heart, they can equally bring joy to children in the United States and all over the world. You will find that these books can be read for enjoyment and integrated into your homeschool curriculum.
How can you use Ready Set Go Books in homeschooling?
Ready Set Go Books can simply be fun for children to experience, or they can become an educational tool. Here are some ideas for how they can be used as part of your school day:
- Learning a language: These books are bilingual, and they can be used as a resource when studying another language, such as Amharic, French, Spanish, or Greek. Different titles are available in different languages. Open Heart Big Dreams’s Youtube channel also features volunteers reading some of the books out loud.
- Learning about cultures: These books feature folk tales, geographical and agricultural features, cultural knowledge, and details of daily life in Ethiopia. Reading books in which Ethiopian children recognize their cultures and reality is a great way for your student to learn about Ethiopian people and their cultures. Reading these books can spark conversations about how people around the world, and especially in Ethiopia, live their lives, and how their lives are both different and the same as yours.
- Enjoying the artwork: These books feature artwork by many artists, sometimes within a single book. Some of the art was even created by children! Reading these books is a great way to learn about different styles of art and different art mediums. It may even inspire your student to start their own art project.
- Enjoying the stories: Children’s literature is meant to be enjoyed. We believe that your children will enjoy these stories and that they will become a part of their own childhood memories. A love of stories is a wonderful way to promote literacy among children.
How can you get involved with Open Hearts Big Dreams?
We invite everyone to join our work at Open Hearts Big Dreams. Here are four major ways you can become involved:
- You can buy books! The art and stories are original and may inspire your student. So many children just need a spark to ignite their creativity.
- If you know one of the languages these books are written in, you can make a video for our YouTube page, and Open Hearts Big Dreams will send you a free book!
- You can talk to your local library, community center, or church about adding these books to their collection. Then other children in your community will also be able to enjoy these books.
- Open Hearts Big Dreams also welcomes volunteers. If you have been looking for a service opportunity for your family, and you want to support our literacy project, you can help illustrate, proofread, write a book review, help plan an event, and much more.