ETHIOPIA - the man who builds libraries for children

"Books have changed my life for the better and I want to give this gift to the children who have never had the opportunity to achieve an education. I wanted to return to Ethiopia , "said Yohannes , " to help children to have a future and a hope. If our children are educated , there's no limit to what we can do as a nation ".


In 2008 he won the " CNN Hero" and in 2011 was made the honorary member of the " American Library Association ." We're talking about Yohannes Gebregeorgis , the man who builds libraries in Ethiopia, he has brought books and the possibility to read them to over 120 thousand students of rural and remote areas of the country.


In 1982 he escapes from Ethiopia and takes refuge in the United States where he managed to graduate and find a job at the public library in San Francisco. He’s in charge of the "Books for Children " and it was then that he discovered the literature dedicated to children and began to read all the classics. When he used to go to school in Ethiopia , Yohannes had very few texts and was able to read his first book at school, only when he was 19 years old. Yohannes 's mother was illiterate , his father could only read a few words and no one there knew of the existence of a children's literature.


Many of his Ethiopians brothers are living the same experience. He discovered that there were no children's books translated in his mother tongue, Amharic - the official language of Ethiopia - and so he wrote and published " Silly Mammo ," the first book of fairy tales for children written in his own language . . "Children ," he said , " know the world and imagine everything through books : they relate to other cultures , other people, other children, to the entire universe . Reading gives them joy, hope and everything that they can not find in school textbooks . "

For these reasons , Yohannes continued to write books for children and with the earnings in 1998 he founded “Ethiopia Reads”, an association that aims to bring books and build libraries in the poorest areas of the country, in 2002 he inaugurated the very  first structure in Addis Ababa and the first mobile library , the “Donkey Mobile library”: Yohannes took a wagon pulled by a donkey , filled with books and stool and walked in the rural villages around Addisa Ababa and Awassa : for a couple of hours , the children stopped working in the fields or herding to learn the alphabet, they listened to Yohannes who read aloud and they travelled with imagination. Now bicycles and scooters are being used while at the beginning a donkey called Helina used to do the job.


In 2009 Gebregeorgis also unveiled the first interactive library to Mekele , near the border with Eritrea : 20 thousand books, but also computers, internet connection and computer courses . All of them for children.

Here is the site of Ethiopia Reads