ABLE: A unique, boxed library program in Afghanistan that is having a profound effect on bettering Afghan society – one reader, one family, one community at a time.
The idea behind ABLE (ACKU Boxed Library Extension) is as simple as it has been effective: enhance and encourage reading among people of all ages and abilities – but especially among the newly literate – by bringing appropriate, relevant reading materials directly to them. These materials, on subjects that affect their daily lives, enable readers to help themselves.
Since 1996, ABLE has pioneered the support of adult literacy through the publication and distribution of easy-to-read books in Afghanistan's main languages, Dari and Pashto, on a wide range of subjects.
The ABLE mobile libraries are carried – by car, truck, donkey, and on the backs of volunteers – across Afghanistan's rough terrain and placed in high school and community libraries. Each high school library receives 500 books on a variety of subjects ranging from agriculture and health issues to history and literature, along with bookshelves on which to display them. Each community library receives a specially designed metal box which acts as a mobile library with 250 books. ABLE ensures established libraries are updated with new books regularly. The community libraries are placed in various locations selected by the communities they serve, such as clinics, schools, mosques, and shops. The libraries are managed by local custodians and monitored by ABLE staff through regular visits and updates.
The results have been impressive. ABLE has established 211 high school and 28 community libraries in all 34 provinces in Afghanistan. In addition, some 1,000 libraries modeled on the ABLE program are now operating across the country, supplied by ABLE to other organizations. In 2008, ABLE prepared 796 mini-libraries for the Partnership for Advancing Community Education for Afghanistan (PACE-A). In 2012, Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan purchase 32 libraries totaling more than 11,000 books for distribution throughout Afghanistan. Currently, ABLE has more than 220,500 books in circulation. The number of readers and beneficiaries exceeds many times that number as family members and others take advantage of the opportunity of having access to reading materials.
To meet the demand of new readers, ABLE works with local authors and illustrators to develop and publish easy-to-read, local language books. Books are written by Afghan writers and reviewed by ABLE's editorial board. Each book is no more than 100 pages, and is produced in a pocket-size format. The subjects of the books offer a window into the current needs of Afghans: popular subjects include such practical areas as basic healthcare (eye and dental care, malaria and tuberculosis prevention and treatment), income generation activities (beekeeping, poultry keeping and bicycle repair), computer skills, home management, and earthquake and environmental safety topics. However, book subjects also include history, politics, literature, folklore, archeology, arts, poetry, and children's stories and games. The titles reflect areas of interest identified by communities and schools, and the popularity of the titles is monitored and recorded. To date, ACKU has published 126 titles of high-quality, easy-to-read books for distribution through the ABLE network.
The Afghanistan Centre at Kabul University (ACKU) was established in 1989 as a central depository for information on Afghanistan. Since its inception, ACKU has collected more than 80,000 documents, 40 percent of which are in the local Afghan languages, Dari and Pashto. The mission of ACKU is to collect, store and share information with a wide body of readers in both Afghan urban and rural settings.
ACKU seeks to encourage the development of a literate society capable of contributing to the growth of the nation. ACKU is playing a key role in the rebuilding of the country's infrastructure. By providing research, education, and public programs and by preserving and providing wider access to its collection, ACKU helps ensure that the people of Afghanistan once again have important resources about their history, culture, and development during one of the country's darkest periods.
ACKU provides the most comprehensive collection of materials related to Afghanistan in the region. ACKU collects, stores, preserves, and shares information with a wide body of readers in both urban and rural settings so as to encourage the development of a qualitatively literate society capable of contributing to the growth of the nation. It also provides a congenial environment for interactions and interchange by Afghans, international students and researchers, and policy makers. There are tremendous gaps in knowledge and understanding in Afghanistan today. ACKU exists to fill this gap and to build and strengthen the capacity and culture of research.