IBBY-Yamada 2008: Haiti

The Joyful Caravan of Books: workshops and festivals

Before the great earthquake of 2010 IBBY Haiti was already concerned about the situation of children and their access to good books. The purpose of this project was to improve Haitian children’s exposure to reading by bringing books to children in areas where there are no books or in places where very limited quantities are available, especially in their home language, Haitian Creole. Also, training volunteers to develop skills in storytelling and creating reading materials based on their local cultural traditions and experiences.  Most children in Haiti do not have access to reading books except for a few textbooks. Although about 50% of children attended school, there was and still is, a great need for improvement in this area. Teachers were often badly trained; there were no school libraries and the children were often taught in French, a language they – and sometimes even their teachers – do not completely master. 75% of the schools were private, putting an enormous burden on families.  With no community libraries except in two or three big cities, most of the children are not really exposed to books, especially in their native tongue, Haitian Creole.  The project comprised three workshops conducted by IBBY Haiti selected staff. The major themes were: The importance of reading among young children: our role as adults in selecting and distributing books to youngsters; Storytelling and other techniques for making reading enjoyable and beneficial for children’s development; Book making, with a strategy oriented for underdeveloped areas.  Techniques and hands on experimentation.  Each of the three workshops lasted for four days, the last day being the reading day festival.  

The activities were aimed to improve reading among Haitian children.  Nine hundred books were bought from six different publishers and distributed to each regional center after the book festivals.  Four training sessions were offered to 120 teachers and parents.

The first workshop started on March 31 and the three others were conducted  every successive month.
The project benefited children from poor city neighborhoods and children in rural areas who are usually not exposed to reading books except for a few textbooks.  

One hundred and twenty participants were selected among preschool and  primary grade teachers, parents and local community leaders. The participants committed themselves to volunteer some time to improve reading in their schools or in the villages.

The participants were trained in the following basic areas:

  • the importance of reading among children
  • the role of teachers and parents in improving reading
  • the selection of books
  • the way to read and tell stories
  • the way to create one’s own book using their cultural background.


The training lasted four days and ended with the reading day festival. Certificates were delivered to the participants.
Each of the participant had the opportunity to develop two little stories in Haitian Creole based on the local folktales. They were able to participate in recruiting and assisting the children on the festival day. Three of these stories have been selected and submitted for publication. 

Children were able to browse and read freely under the supervision of the newly trained Reader Helpers on the Book Festival Day.

Three hundred books were left in each selected regional center and are available to the children in all neighboring schools and communities.

The teachers, parents and children from the selected zones had no previous experience with this kind of reading project – an annual one day book fair for children is offered only in Port au Prince.  Although, most children cannot afford to buy a book at the fair. 

The other regions in the country, even the second largest city do not have any kind of event in which children are exposed to books. The workshops were offered to teachers coming from poor schools of Port au Prince and to participants in Artibonite, Nippes and Lagonave, mostly rural areas.

Local television and newspapers present at the opening of the first  workshop contributed to a certain awareness about those reading activities and about  IBBY goals in general . 

The children who attended the Reading Day Festivals were from neighboring schools. They were invited by the teachers and parents who received the initial training from the project. Those children attend schools that have no libraries and there are no municipal or regional libraries in those communities. 

The Project THE JOYFUL CARAVAN  OF BOOKS reached hundreds of children who never have the chance to read a book other than their textbooks.