Book Dash, South Africa

Programme name Country Date of information
Book Dash South Africa 18 June 2019

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Question Answer
About the Organisation  
Organisation name Book Dash
Organisation address Buchanan Square, 160 Sir Lowry Rd, Woodstock, Cape Town, 7925, South Africa
Goal/objective Our vision is for every child to own one hundred books by the age of five. To that end, Book Dash gathers creative volunteers to create new African storybooks that anyone can freely print, translate and distribute. We also print and distribute the books to families and children across the country for free.
Contact Person Julia Norrish
Position of Contact Person Director
Contact email
Contact Telephone Number +27212067868
Organisation website
Organisation type NPO, NGO
How many staff does your organisation employ? 3 employees
About the Programme  
Basic details  
Programme name Book Dash
Country/Province/City where the programme takes place Nationally, across South Africa
Year started 2014
Funding sources We apply for funding grants from a variety of sources, most notably corporate social investment and family philanthropic trusts and foundations. This way we can make sure our books are free to the end user (the families and children we support). We also generate income by practicing pooled-procurement i.e printing our books at scale and offering these at low prices to partner organisations who have budgets for resources. The books are still then distributed to children for free.
Geographic coverage   We distribute books across all of the nine provinces in South Africa. Additionally our content is used in countries across the world including: India, France, United Kingdom, India, Nigeria, Angola, Asia.
Purpose of the programme  
Not for profit? Yes, we are registered with the South African Government as an NPO. The purpose of this programme is not to make profit. Our aim is to provide books to the end user for free.
Religious or political purpose? None.
Local consistency of model  
Is your programme model consistent across your geographic area, or are there regional differences? Not consistent. Our geographic reach differs between the provinces due to Book Dash being based in the Western Cape a large number of our funders/partners are also from this region as we have a stronger presence. We also have a stronger presence in Gauteng due to holding a book making event in the region once a year.  
However, we aim to partner with organisations who are involved across all different provinces.
Because we rely on our distribution partners (early childhood development organisations and literacy organisations) to distribute the books to children, there are regional differences in exactly how this is carried out. It also means we have a stronger presence in areas where there is a higher density of these types of organisations.
Book Packs  
What are the contents of your gifting pack? We focus our attention to providing books to children who would otherwise not have access to books, particularly in their home language. Our gifting packs include Book Dash’s own books that are suitable to the child’s age, language requirements and context. In addition to their home language children often receive English books too as this is the language of learning from Grade 4 onwards in South Africa and it is beneficial to be exposed early.
Is your programme offered free of charge to all families? Yes. Our primary focus is to put physical books into the homes of children (as research shows the presence of books in the home has extremely beneficial effects on reading culture, literacy development and academic attainment). We therefore source funding and use pooled-procurement to ensure the books are offered free to the child and family. We are able to consistently offer/donate a package of 100 books at R1000/£55/61 to our funders and sponsors. We create our books using a Common Creative BY 4.0 license that allows anyone to use our content for free. This includes adaptations such as translations into languages different languages.
Partnerships and Delivery  
What are your primary ‘points of contact’ with the population you serve? • Health clinics (this aspect of our work is growing quickly as we partner with more and more clinics and hospitals!)
• Gifted by professional partners
Library, Hospital, Community centre, Health clinic, School,  Other – more details below
Who gifts/hands-out your pack to families? early literacy specialists,  librarians, nursery school staff,  volunteers, trained community leaders
Please list your other programme partnerships. Whilst we work with the above we rely extensively on strong networks of Early Childhood Development Organisations and literacy promotion organisations in South Africa to distribute our books to the children they work with. For example the Nali’bali National Reading for Enjoyment Campaign uses and gives away Book Dash books in the thousands to promote increased access to books, and book ownership.
If your programme uses volunteers, please give some more details. Our book creation model uses professional illustrators, writers, designers and editors who volunteer their time to create one of our books. The only commitment is to a once-off 12-hour fast-paced book making events called “Book Dashes”, though we find that many re-apply for more! After that we partner with organisations to distribute our books who have volunteers. We do not work directly with any volunteers after the books have been created.
Is the programme universal  or targeted? Our program is focused primarily on South African children aged 0 – 5. Our vision is that every child should own one hundred books by the age of five. However, in building the presence and capacity of our organisation and programme, we have focused on targeted groups (mostly small geographic areas). We also specifically target South African children who would not otherwise have access to reading books i.e. lower socio-economic groups. We aim to provide children with storybooks in their home language (there are a limited number of children’s books in African languages) as well as English.
How many children does your programme serve a year? In the last 5 years Book Dash has grown exponentially, so yearly impact has changed each year. Whilst each partner organisation uses the books slightly differently we know that in the last year we have distributed 300000 books to children to own.
At what age/gifting period do children receive your programme. Prenatal,  Birth – 6 months,  6 – 12 months,  12 – 24 months,  2-4 years, up to 7 years old
Diversity provision  
Does your program include provisions or resources for children with special needs?   No. However, due to the nature of our open-licensed content there have been adaptations of our books that have served children with special needs for instance braille books adaptations, sign language adaptations and audio books.
What language populations does your programme serve? We cater to the eleven official languages of South Africa: English, Afrikaans, isiXhosa, isiZulu, isiSepedi, isiNdebele, Setswana, Sesotho, Siswati, Tshivenda, Xitsonga. Our Creative BY 4.0 license allows anyone to use our content for free. Therefore our books have been adapted and translated into hundreds of languages.
Evaluation and research  
Have you conducted programme evaluation or research (including longitudinal)? If yes, has this evaluation/research been published? The existing evidence base for the benefits of increased book ownership is extremely strong. Therefore we chose to focus on tracking our impact, rather than evaluating the impact. However we do collaborate with our partners to measure the impact of our books (often qualitative feedback) we would like to explore more rigorous evaluations going forward.
Further information or comments  
Please give us any further information that would be helpful for understanding your programme Because of Book Dash’s innovative publishing model we aren’t reliant on external publishers to source books and as such are able to drastically reduce the costs of printing and distribution (just 55p or 66 cents Euro/book), whilst still providing families and children with high quality picture books in all eleven languages of South Africa.


Videos and Powerpoints

Sept 2022 -Digital media & storybooks for young children – resources, opportunities and challenges

Julia Norrish and Zanri Kritzinger: Book Dash, South Africa

8 Sept 2021 – Bookgifting programmes in the Global South

Julia Norrish: Executive Director, Book Dash, South Africa

Dorette Louw: Director, Book Dash, South Africa

1 July 2020 meeting – Targeting the hard to reach

Julia Norrish: Book Dash, South Africa – Flooding the country with books: using innovative channels to access the hard to reach