The Dash is on to get SA kids to read

The Dash is on to get SA kids to read

By: Melissa Cohen

Just a few months ago, three established Cape Town publishers got together to create a unique and proudly South African initiative. Book Dash as it is known, is a collaborative project run by Arthur Attwell, Tarryn-Anne Anderson and Michelle Matthews, who want to encourage reading amongst children.
“We have a background in the publishing industry and we just see so many children in South Africa, particularly really small children, like ages one to five, who grow up without any books in their homes. And we think books can just add so much to a childhood, but the only way to get books to people is to give them to them for free,” explains Attwell.
Book Dash has already created twenty two one of a kind children’s books and plans to produce at least ten books at every book dash. The Book Dash takes place once a month at the Cape Town Central Library, where over eighty people sit and brainstorm unique and educational stories for children to enjoy. “We have a lot of really talented writers, illustrators and designers and so we get them all together in these marathon days that last twelve hours. In twelve hours these people gather and they produce these beautiful books,” says Anderson with a smile.

Once the books have been printed, they are then distributed to kids around Cape Town who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford buying a book. Up to now, Book Dash has already distributed over 750 books around the city, but they are hoping to reach their goal of giving away 600 million free books in South Africa; 100 for every child, of which there are estimated to be over 6 million.
“One of the critical things about Book Dash is that we use something called an open licence and that licence is a legal agreement that says to the world that you guys can have our books as long as you give credit to the creators,” mentions Attwell.
The aim of the open licence is to make the books freely available to anyone worldwide who is either a teacher or a mother who can’t afford books. These people can then print these online pages and then have their own book that they can use.

Book Dash is currently running a crowd funding campaign which started at the beginning of this month and will run until mid-December. “On you can find a way to both support the Book Dash project generally, but most importantly give books to children. You can pay an amount of money that gets books directly in to the hands of children and you will also know exactly how many books you are giving away with your purchase,” explains Attwell.
The money that is collected through the campaign is then gathered together and put towards a big print run to print the books, which will in turn be distributed to children early next year.

* For more information about Book Dash and to find out how you can help support reading in South Africa, visit

Twitter: @MelCohen92