Ladders to Success:

A Small Rural Library is Lighting the Way for Youth

Sarah is ten. She’s never been out of her little village in rural Rwanda, where she lives with her parents and another sibling. But Sarah has dreams that no boundary can contain. One day, she will be a doctor. 

It’s a regular morning in Gisagara, with kids running around the unpaved roads, waving the bright yellow canisters around and laughing. They are on their way to fetch water for the family at the village water station. The community is slowly waking up, with some headed to the fields, and others to their places of work. The children are walking in groups towards the small school building, kicking up dust and playfully tugging on each other. 

Sarah is walking with her friends, sharing silly stories as they make their way to the classroom. Once there, she turns quiet and attentive, sitting calmly, ready to learn. When the teacher asks for a volunteer who could read the passage from a book the class will be working on, Sarah raises her hand high: she’s one of her grade’s best readers. The fourth in reading, out of fifty children. 

But just a year ago, Sarah was behind in reading.

“She didn’t want to practice reading, or do her homework after classes,” shares her mother Christine. It was all a struggle, both for Sarah’s teacher and for her parents. They knew she had potential, but didn’t quite know how to motivate her to reach higher. 

“One day, Sarah passed by the library,” remembers Christine. That day, everything changed. “She came home with some books in Kinyarwanda, and told us that the librarian said how we, the parents, should support Sarah’s reading at home.” Since then, the family has made it a priority to allow Sarah time to read, encourage her to read and share the stories with her sibling. 

Books have that special effect on young minds. They can take them on a journey throughout the world, allowing them to explore places of endless opportunities, and inspire them to never stop reading, growing, learning.

Primary Text

The library is my place for reading. There are so many books there. They help me read faster, complete my school assignments and speak better.

Before she discovered the library, Sarah struggled with reading, which led to more problems with other classes in school. “I am working hard to rank first in the next round of assessments. The library encourages me to pursue my dreams of becoming a doctor when I grow up,” she proudly announces. “They allow me to read there, or bring books home and read. It’s easy,” says Sarah, thanking her community library and the American people who helped establish it.

For more than a decade, USAID has been working relentlessly to help Rwandan learners become better readers. Thanks to the hard work of students and teachers, the results have been outstanding: in just three years, while the whole world was registering learning losses due to the pandemic, Rwandan students were becoming much better readers. In fact, their reading abilities increased by an impressive 33%, while their ability to comprehend a text increased by 15%. Generally speaking, children don’t have books at home, so community libraries are a beacon of hope for the majority of learners. Community libraries are a fruit of thriving partnerships between the local government and development partners like USAID. Through USAID Uburezi Iwacu, the American people have funded the establishment of 13 community libraries across Rwanda in 2023, and supplied almost half a million locally produced books. The local government provided the spaces, while USAID supplied furniture, books, training for the librarians, as well as mobilization of parents towards a flourishing culture of reading in Rwanda. 

Sarah is just ten. With her determination and hard work, nothing is impossible for her. Her generation will produce doctors, teachers, nurses, farmers, and leaders all of whom carry the torch of hope for the country. All of them are thankful for the community libraries that instilled in them the love of reading. 

children sitting on the floor of the community library reading books

Theogene Cyiza, USAID Uburezi Iwacu.

USAID Uburezi Iwacu (Homes and Communities) is a project funded by USAID and implemented by World Vision and partners.

To learn more about the whole-of-community approach this project takes to ensure a thriving culture of reading takes root in Rwanda, please reach out to

Explore what else USAID is doing to support inclusion and foundational literacy in Rwanda by visiting our Education page.