Designing with Compassion

Imagine owning 100 high-quality, local language books by the age of five. That’s the vision behind Book Dash, an NPO set on improving literacy by ensuring more children aged five and under have access to storybooks at home.

But it’s the way Book Dash is doing this that is the most beautiful thing to celebrate. During the 15 events it has hosted since 2014, three-person teams of creative volunteers (a writer, graphic designer and illustrator) gather for one day to create a visual storybook, donating 12 hours of their time and streams of creativity. The 140 titles that have resulted from these book-making drives live as open-source files on the Book Dash website, and as ready-to-read books that anyone around the world can translate, print and distribute.

Book Dash Director Julia Norrish says that 93% of South African households own fewer than 10 books. “If kids are exposed to books in their first five years, their economic and academic trajectory is completely improved. This isn’t going to happen if books are stuck in centres of learning and libraries. We get books into homes and bring parents into the equation,” she explains. By the end of August this year, Book Dash will have printed one-million books for free to various households across our country.

Its open-license method of publishing won the organisation ‘Disruptor of the Year’ at the Community Chest Impumelelo Social Innovation Awards last year. Says Norrish, “Our books are being reused in projects around the world, translated into languages I’ve never heard of, used in literacy promotion, or animated and made into audio versions.”

100 Beautiful Things is presented by the V&A Waterfront in celebration of South Africa’s creativity, compassion, ingenuity and resilience. Every week we will be showcasing five amazingly beautiful creative things that make us proud. It is curated in partnership with Platform Creative.