Popplet People: Keith Goddard, Books Matter

Reading and academic success are closely linked – just ask anyone who has been to school! There is now strong evidence to suggest that readers – those who have developed the habit of reading regularly for pleasure as well as academic or professional purposes – also enjoy more success in their professional lives and in their relationships. Reading makes your life better. This chance of a better life through reading should be open to everyone.  Keith Goddard knows this, that’s one of the reasons he co-founded the charity Books Matter.

Keith GoddardBooks Matter is a Toronto-based charity that collects quality books, and then ships them to schools in Ghana, West Africa, where books are desperately needed. In their own words:

  • Literacy changes lives
  • Books are essential
  • Literacy is a basic right.

Keith recently posted a Books Matter Popplet on our Twitter page, and we were so impressed we wanted to know more.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I live in Toronto and have been teaching public school there for about 20 years. I have taught a variety of subjects, but have been teaching ESL for the past three years and thoroughly enjoy it. I’ve traveled to Ghana four times, which is where my wife is from.

Describe Books Matter and what it does.
Books Matter smileyBooks Matter provides schools in Ghana with desperately needed reading materials. We collect new and gently used books from schools, as well as individuals, in the Toronto area, and ship them to specific schools in Ghana. We raise money on our website to pay for the shipping, as that is our only real expense, other than website maintenance. We also keep track of most of the books that we send, by cataloging them on LibraryThing.com. That way we know what books we have sent to a particular school, so if and when we send them subsequent shipments, we have an idea of their areas of need. The cataloging is the real time-consuming part of the whole process, but ultimately worth it.

Can you explain how Books Matter came about?
My wife is from Ghana and sometimes sends things there. When she explained to me the extreme scarcity of books in schools there, we decided to send some books that we basically had lying around. From there, we saw how much the books were appreciated, so we kept going!

How successful has Books Matter been in achieving its goals?
books matter libraryI think we’ve been somewhat successful so far. We’ve shipped about 20,000 books to Ghana and we’ve received a lot of feedback that students and staff are overjoyed at now having books. We also received information that some schools’ standardized test scores have increased noticeably. The test scores aside, I just can’t imagine not having access to books in my personal life, let alone in school. If our goal is to give young people in Ghana access to books, then we have a long way to go, since there are about 20,000 primary schools there. Our main need is money. We are always having people offer us books, so much so that we have to turn some down.

How do you use Popplet? 
My first interaction with Popplet came about recently. I was taking a professional development course for teachers, and the instructor introduced us to a lot of great apps. For one assignment, we had to choose an app to illustrate something, so I used Popplet. After completing the assignment, I decided to try a do a quick Popplet of areas where we’ve donated books in Ghana. It really only took a matter of minutes and I decided to Tweet it. I intend to use Popplet for students that I teach because it’s so simple to use, yet you can make your Popplet as complicated as you can imagine.

How can people donate to Books Matter – can they donate their 2nd hand books?Yes, people can donate used books that are in good shape, or new books. A couple of schools have done book drives for us and donated a lot of great, new books. We accept fiction and non-fiction, appropriate for pre-school all the way up to teens. The other type of donation we accept, of course, is money. Those donations can be made to our website. The money pays for shipping the books to Ghana. Presently, it costs us about $200 to ship about 350 books to Ghana. That is one barrel, so depending on the size of the books, the amount that we can “stuff” into a barrel fluctuates. The cost includes the price of the barrel, delivering it to our shipper in Toronto, and then all the way to Ghana. Once the books reach Ghana, the recipient picks them up and delivers them, at their cost, to the particular school. Most of the time those schools are quite far from the port, which is in the capital.

What are your plans for the future? 
Our plans for the future are to keep sending books. I’m also hoping to visit Ghana in the summer of 2016. I haven’t been there in about seven years and not since we started sending books there. I’d like to visit some of the schools where we’ve donated and get a feel for how the books are being used, as well as which books are enjoyed or used a lot. I have a feeling that since many people have not had books before, including the teachers when they were young, I might be able to be of help in introducing reading strategies and different ideas and approaches to reading in the class. I’m sure it’ll be a learning experience, for everyone, including myself.

Outstanding! You can read more about how it works and how you can support this project on the Books Matter website.

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