Paper Picker Press Book Project

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Paper Picker Press Book Project

United States
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

 The Nyaka School for AIDS Orphans uses a community-based approach committed to finding sustainable solutions to the challenges of the AIDS/HIV epidemic.  It was established specifically to address the plight of orphans and  the grandmothers and guardians who are raising these children.  We now operate two primary schools, a grannies education and support program, and are currently building a vocational center and a self-sustaining farm.  A community library, the first one in Western Uganda,  is being built to serve all of Kanunga District.  

 In this area with no electricity or paved roads, there are virtually no books,  signs or visual stimuli.  Most of the grandmothers who are raising these orphans are illiterate;  most speak no English which is the national language.  In order for our children to progress in their education, they need to develop their reading abilities, English language competency and critical thinking skills.

The Paper Picker Press project developed by Professor Doris Sommers of Harvard University was designed to address these areas by promoting learning through creativity.  The program offers great flexibility so can be adapted to remote areas like ours.  The basic idea is to expose the students to  one literary text over a 10-week period using creativity to explore and interpret the story.  At Nyaka, we introduced a Ugandan folk tale in the local dialect and, slowly, brought in the English.  The children acted out scenes, drew characters, described the characters to each other and made puppets.  Since we had no access to art materials, the children had to create the puppets from nature, so we had lions with manes made of banana fiber and antlers made of twigs. 

The students learned that stories have value and meaning.  They were able to connect the story to their own lives. The grannies were made a part of the process when the students performed scenes in front of them.  Plus, we asked the grannies to share their stories with us.  Each student was able to experience success with some aspect of the project.  Most important, students realized that learning is fun!  We have taken some of the stories told by the Grannies, written them up and are having them illustrated.  We want to formalize this process as a way of preserving these folk tales.


About You
Project Street Address


Project City

Kambuga, SW Uganda

Project Province/State

Kanunga District, SW Uganda

Project Postal/Zip Code


Project Country
Your idea
Country your work focuses on:


What stage is your project in?

Operating for more than 5 years

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What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?


Describe your idea in fewer than 50 words.

To develop a reading culture, critical thinking skills and English language development at the Nyaka AIDS Orphan School in rural Uganda . The students are exposed to a literary text over a 10-week period and encouraged to creatively and actively engage in the text. The book project aims to awaken the children's enthusiasm for learning through books that are meaningful and relevant to them. Learning becomes fun. Grandmothers, guardians are also engaged in the process.

What makes your idea unique?

Education in Uganda is geared toward rote learning, memorization and "teaching to the test". To counter this, while at the same time providing children with the appropriate education resources, Nyaka introduced The Paper Picker Press program which encourages critical thinking, enhances reading enjoyment and teaches children to value meaning, not just repetition or memorization. The tale we studied, part of local folklore, was presented in both Rukiga (local dialect) and English, so the children were learning English and enjoying the process. Children who do not learn in traditional ways were taught through dramatization, discussions, drawings, and re-imagining characters. As part of the project, we presented a play based on the story to the grandmothers and guardians, which involved them in the students' learning process. The grandmothers then shared other folk tales with the children. These folk tales are being preserved and will be incorporated into future projects. This project has great flexibility and emphases the importance of "fun" in learning.

What is your area of work? (Please check as many as apply.)

Children & Youth , Boys' development , Early childhood development , Education , Education reform , Girls' development , Mentorship , Play , Youth development , Youth leadership , Adult education , Cultural preservation , Youth leadership.

What impact have you had?

Our first book project was done in February/ March of this year. We worked with the P3 students (aged 9-10 years), which is designated by the Ugandan government as the year rural students should start learning in English (the national language). By engaging the children in multiple disciplines with a variety of artistic media, we reached many of the students who were not auditory learners. The children were taught through intellectual, physical and emotional activities. By addressing the whole child in a variety of ways, we encouraged higher order thinking as well as improved reading enjoyment. In addition, we encouraged pleasant interactions between the grandmothers and the children by having them share folk tales from their youth. These tales have been written down to make into books in order to preserve them. Since all our children are orphans we have encouraged them to connect to their own history and find meaning in their lives through reading.

Describe the primary problem(s) that your project is addressing.

In order for students to continue on to secondary school, they must pass a national exam (given in English). The students from the villages are competing with students who live in the main city and speak English as a first language. In all the village schools there is a huge emphasis on teaching to these tests which results in teaching what is in the syllabus by repetition, memorization and continuous testing. This has resulted in students learning data retrieval rather than learning higher-order thinking. This type of teaching also does not address the needs of students who do not learn in the traditional method.

Describe the steps that your organization is taking to make your project successful.

The Nyaka School for AIDS Orphans is using the stories told by the grannies to make books for next year's P3 students. We will have the stories presented in both local dialect and English. We are also working with the Professor from Harvard to enhance our presentation and the variety of activities

What will it take for your project to be successful over the next three years? Success in Year 1:

The project will be repeated with a new story during the next school year for the new P3s as well as repeated with a new story with the P4s. In addition, we will introduce the project in our second school, Kutumba, for their P3s. Emphasis will be on integrated learning with other subjects. Students who do not read will be identified and worked with on an individual basis. Stories generated from the grannies will be reproduced in book form to preserve and enjoy. The students improve reading enjoyment and develop critical thinking skills through the creative process.

Success in Year 2:

The program will be repeated in higher grades/levels so that three (3) grades/levels at both schools are actively involved. Student leaders will be chosen to anchor the project. Also, we should identify local artists who would come to the school to introduce other artistic ways of interpreting the text, such as photography, music, dance. Folk tales shared by the grannies will be printed and available in both local dialect and English.

Success in Year 3:

The book project will be introduced through the programs at the library that is currently being built as part of the Nyaka School for AIDS Orphan's organization. The library programs will be geared toward preschoolers and adult education. Assessment tools will be developed to mark our progress.

Do you have a business plan or strategic plan? (yes/no)

Yes, Nyaka School for AIDS Orphans has a strategic plan that has just been reviewed and updated.

What are the three most important actions needed to grow your initiative or organization? STEP 1:

A local teacher responsible for the program year-round to make sure the project gets integrated into the regular studies.

What are the three most important actions needed to grow your initiative or organization? STEP 2:

Local folk tales transcribed and put into book form.

What are the three most important actions needed to grow your initiative or organization? STEP 3:

Involving the community in the project through the programs at the new library.

Describe the expected results of these actions.

The new way of teaching will encourage interest in learning and enable students to connect with the stories through their experiences. The students will develop critical thinking skills, improve their reading enjoyment and awaken their capacity for learning through different media. The grannies/guardians will be involved in some of the activities and share stories that will be preserved as well as engage more actively in their children's education.

What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

Uganda has almost no children's books that are relevant to the children living in the villages. I was trying to find a inexpensive way of printing books and heard about the Paper Picker Press established by Prof. Doris Sommers. She made me realize the importance of establishing a reading culture and introduced me to this book project.

Tell us about the social innovator behind this idea.

Prof. Doris Sommers of Harvard is the inspiration behind this idea. She has studied how children learn and developed this way of introducing books through a multiple-arts approach. She emphasizes the importance of "fun" in learning.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Barbara Ball-McClure

What would prevent your project from being a success?

The lack of a trained local teacher who can focus on the creative development of the program as well as integrating the project into the regular curriculum.

Financing source


If yes, provide organization name.

We are working with Prof. Doris Sommers of Harvard University on an informal basis.

How long has this organization been operating? (i.e. less than a year; 1-5 years; more than 5 years)


Does your organization have a Board of Directors or an Advisory Board?

Yes. Boards of Directors in Uganda and the United States.

Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with NGOs? (yes/no)


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with businesses? (yes/no)


The Story
Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with government? (yes/no)


Please tell us more about how these partnerships are critical to the success of your innovation.


How many people will your project serve annually?

100-1000 by the end of the second year.

What is the total number of employees and total number of volunteers at your organization?

3 Ugandan employees. 3 f/t volunteers, many p/t

What is your organization's business classification?

Non-profit/NGO/citizen sector organization

Have you received funding from any of the following groups? (Please check as many as apply.)