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    People Making Changes No.42
    Books Without Borders
    Dorothy - 07/12/01

    No, this is not a reference to page layout - it means something much more important. It means that in mid-December New Zealand school children are donating books which will cross international borders and be sent to Nigeria to help in a campaign to combat illiteracy in Nigeria.

    Fiona Lovatt Davis
    How did "Books without Borders" begin?
    It sprang from Fiona Lovatt Davis's passionate desire to spread the joy of reading to as many children as possible, whatever their country, whatever their race.

    One teacher's way of fighting illiteracy
    She began her fight against illiteracy when she was a sole charge teacher in a small country school at Tuturumuri School in the south of New Zealand's North Island. She found that her fourteen pupils who had had nine different teachers in three years were determined not to do any reading. However, she insisted that every day they would do a shared reading from a script divided into sections, some of only one word. Each pupil had to choose a section to read, but if a pupil chose to read only one word that meant that s/he had to follow the whole story or poem to contribute that word at the appropriate place.

    From small beginnings the reading programme eventually expanded to include readings at school from writers as varied as Shakespeare, Tennyson, Alfred Noyse, Terry Pratchett and the New Zealand poet Denis Glover, plus long lists of books read in the pupils' own time.

    This work led to an Ashton Scholastic award for Fiona for teaching literature.

    She is now principal of Oturu School in Northland, and is involved in sharing her approach to teaching literature with teachers around New Zealand.

    Beyond New Zealand to Nigeria
    Then she went further afield - to Nigeria where she was shocked at the situation of the children there. To assist them she has put her energies into "Books Without Borders", in association with the international humanitarian organisation "The Global Bridge".

    New Zealand school children supporting the campaign
    A container load of books donated by New Zealand schoolchildren will be sent to Abuja, the capital of Nigeria. Fiona will accompany the container to Nigeria to assist with the distribution of the books from the new Literacy Resource Centre. She will also work with the Reading Association of Nigeria giving training and literacy workshops in a literacy campaign called "Odyssey for the Children".

    At present Fiona, who is full of enthusiasm for the project, is deeply involved in the organisation of "Books without Borders".

    "We're getting news throughout each day of another school, another small community that is finding books for this cause," she says. 'It's like an unfolding miracle and it is actually what we do best as New Zealanders but there are so few opportunities as a nation to express our generous side in a public celebration. All those asparagus rolls and pikelets cooked by our mothers for shared community feasts have prepared us well for making our small contribution to the great banquet of literacy that we are about to serve up for the children of Nigeria."

    In their Press Release the campaign organisers express their hope for the future of the scheme.
    "The campaign, which it is hoped will become an annual event, aims to establish a lasting link between New Zealand school children and their Nigerian counterparts, by asking the recipients of the books to send back a token gift (such as a stone, marble or bead) to the New Zealand donors.

    "It is hoped that this acknowledgement will forge a permanent bond between the children, and that the New Zealanders will remain interested in the progress of their new friends and continue to help out in years to come. The Books Without Borders campaign, to be documented in print, photos, film and video, and its own website, also hopes to quash the common belief that aid sent to impoverished countries always ends up in the wrong hands."

    Fiona Lovatt Davis hopes that improved literacy will bring to light Nigeria's untold and beautiful stories presently lost behind a wall of poverty and prejudice.

    "This campaign," she says, "aims to provide a vehicle to help restore faith in the merits of giving, and the documentation of this project will prove that we can make a difference and that we should not just turn our backs."

    It is hoped that schools nationwide will take part in the campaign.

    Any enquiries or offers of help can be directed to

    Published with permission from NZine