#Read4Food Challenge: Feeding the mind and body

Beatrice Kache Maitha


Saide’s Partner Development strategy for African Storybook includes identifying and supporting individual literacy activists, or Champions. This strategy has yielded numerous examples of how these individuals find innovative ways to use the African Storybook resources to promote children’s literacy. Here is one such example, described by a Kenyan Champion, Beatrice Kache Maitha. Beatrice is also the leader of a social enterprise financial organisation called Impertimus Education Investment, which is active in Kilifi on the southeastern coast of Kenya.


We wanted to promote children’s literacy during the school lockdowns and help to support the many families who are struggling to put food on the table. So, on 9 April 2021, Impertimus Education Investment launched the “Read for Food Challenge” in response to conditions created by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. We chose to use a different approach than the usual campaigns around food packs. We invited parents of children in Grades 4 to 7, who have smartphones, to download storybooks for their children to read and review to earn rewards in the form of food packs.


Invitation to parents to participate in the #READ4FOOD Challenge


#READ4FOOD Challenge advances access to literacy and food and encourages parents to support their children’s reading activities. For the first week of the Challenge, we focused on the Mnarani ward in Kilifi County. Children there could not wait for the message about the selected storybooks to be sent and to start reading! We even received calls from parents asking us to send the list of storybooks to them.


Left: Mnarani parents meeting. Right: Parent viewing ASb Reader app


We had thought that households’ limited access to smartphones would limit participation, but this was not the case in Mnarani. Two households without smartphones paired their children with the neighbours who had downloaded the African Storybook Reader app. We are targeting 40 children in April and May 2021.

Using the African Storybook Reader app, children get access to storybooks in English, Kiswahili, and regional languages such as KiGiryama. We started with the first group of 10 children, to whom we assigned storybooks and assignments for the week. After completing the reading and assignments they will receive food packs for their families. Here is the assignment that children are asked to complete:


We are working with the Kenya National Library Service, Kilifi branch, as an assessment and food collection center. The #READ4FOOD Challenge has the potential to expand as we have received requests outside the targeted communities. We are also looking for individuals and organizations to partner with us by contributing to food packs. We hope that the next groups of children and households enrolling in the challenge will also overcome the smartphone challenge and access storybooks. We are so excited to see how this Challenge unfolds.


One book at a time, and food on the table for a struggling household!