Book Dash: Creatives Making Books For Children Who Have None


Books open up new worlds that inspire, educate and entertain us. Reading also builds better brains, especially in the first years of life. Too many children grow up unable to read and write well – skills we ourselves use every day, but still take for granted. 83% of children in the poorest South African schools have fewer than 10 books at home. Responding to this, Book Dash is a movement that centres on something simple, but very vital: getting more books into the hands of children. They envision a future where each child will own 100 books by the age of 5, which in South Africa means giving away 600 million free books to children who could never afford to buy them.


The biggest hindrance to giving books away for free is that they cost too much purchased from publishers – the cheapest books have no publisher, as the only cost is printing. The only way for Book Dash to work, then, is to bypass publishers altogether and to rely on participants to do their work instead. On a single ‘Book Dash day’; teams of writers, illustrators and designers work quickly to make picture-story books for ages 1 – 5. The beauty of it all is that the books are open-licensed, which means that anyone who wishes to can translate, print and distribute them. Book Dash has banded with local creatives to make 22 books (and counting) that tell inspiring and empowering stories, and they’ve printed and given away 750 of these to date. They’re currently working to make an even bigger dent on their long-term goal by raising funds with a Thundafund campaign and using these proceeds, they will distribute 15000 books to children in need.


The concept for Book Dash was developed by Arthur Attwell, Michelle Matthews, and Tarryn-Anne Anderson and it has since grown into a collaboration of volunteers and sponsoring organisations. If you’d like to know more about Book Dash and how to get involved, visit their website:


Keep up to date with Book Dash on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


Below are a few spreads from some of the beautiful books that Book Dash has brought into existence so far.


A Fish and a Gift

Illustations by Jesse Breytenbach, story by Liesl Jobson, design and typesetting by Any Thesen.




Maddy Moona’s Menagerie

Illustations by Candace Di Talamo, story by Rachel Zadok, design and typesetting by Nick Mulgrew.




Sleepy Mr Sloth

Illustations by Graham Paterson, story by Paul Kennedy, design and typesetting by Nick Mulgrew.




Zanele Situ: My Story

Illustations by Jesse Breytenbach, story by Liz Sparg, design and typesetting by Andy Thesen.




A Dancer’s Tale

Illustations by Samantha Cutler, story by Thea Nicole de Klerk, design and typesetting by Roberto Pita.




Come back, Cat!

Illustations by Karen Lilje, story by Nicola Rijsdijk, design and typesetting by Sam Scarborough.




Queen of Soweto

Illustations by Mia du Plessis, story by Jessica Taylor, design and typesetting by MarliFourie.




Singing the Truth

Illustations by Louwrisa Blaauw, story by Jade Mathieson, design and typesetting by Bianca de Jong.




Skilpad Soek Sy Huis / Tortoise Finds His Home

Illustations by Katrin Coetzer, story by Maya Fowler, design and typesetting by Damian Gibbs.




Sindiwe and the Fireflies

Illustations by Jano Strydom, story by Cheréne Pienaar, design and typesetting by Tess Gadd.




Siswe’s Smile

Illustations by Genevieve Terblanche, story by Vianne Venter, design and typesetting by Lauren Rycroft.




Graca’s Dream

Illustations by Karlien De Villiers, story by Melissa Fagan, design and typesetting by Marike le Roux.






Between 10 and 5