NABU launches free reading platform in Kenya

Written By: Claire Wanja

With an estimated  18 million Kenyan children at home during COVID-19, NABU provides valuable access to educational materials at home.  Some of the free stories even help children prevent the spread of the virus, such as Bingwa wa Kuzuia Virusi (The Virus Stopping Champion).

Award-winning literacy organization NABU is launching its free reading app,, in Kenya this week, in partnership with local government and partners across the education sector. 

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Unlike other organizations that charge for their services or offer only foreign books, NABU maintains a free e-reading platform that is targeted at parents and teachers who want to ensure that their young children get the best possible start to their education, by serving them with engaging local stories.

“NABU’s mission to drive locally written and crafted children’s storybooks free to all on a variety of platforms is something I applaud. I believe NABU will be a welcome new addition to Kenya’s collective effort to further grow our deep history of storytelling and culture of reading in all our children”, Said Rupert Corbishley, Regional Education and ECD advisor of the Aga Khan Foundation.

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“Research shows that children who have access to books in their mother tongue at an early age make the bridge to reading in English and other languages,” said NABU Executive Director, Tanyella Evans.

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“We want to share beautiful, engaging stories where children can see themselves reflected in the pages, so they grow up to be confident readers.” He added

The organization aims to distribute over 150 free Swahili books in the coming months, ranging from early readers to independent readers.

The free app also hosts over 1,000 children’s books in English, French, Kinyarwanda, and Lingala.

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NABU also aims to support the Kenyan creative industry with training and commissions for authors and illustrators. The organization gives local creatives a chance to receive world-class training, global exposure, and earn a living by leveraging technology.

One story “Ana Anandoto Kubwa” by local Kenyan author Stacy Cherono Bett and illustrated by Emmanuel Bagirishya is about a young girl who loves building things and aspires to be a structural engineer when she grows up.

The book showcases how she overcomes her fear of failure and enrolls for a science competition as the only girl in class to do so. Despite being ridiculed by the boys in the competition, she works hard and emerges victorious.

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The reading app is available on both Android and iOS platforms.

NABU is currently the fastest growing app in neighboring Rwanda, with over 85,000 downloads in 24 months, and 10,000 children reading every day.

NABU’s Kenya Program Manager, Beryl Oywer, aims to replicate this success in the Kenyan market.

“With the rise in internet penetration and access to smartphones in Kenya, children have been exposed to technology and are more likely to grow into autonomous and successful technology users. Access to reading materials will provide children with the basic skills in which they will acquire competency in order to be successful in school and develop skills critical for higher-order thinking.”


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