Shine – a literacy charity working in Zambia

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Here on Playing by the book I maintain a list of reading/literacy charities around the world. I recently discovered Shine, a charity working in the country where I was born – Zambia – and I asked their founder, Vineet Bhatnagar to share with us more information about the charity.

Shine – who we are and what we do

shine1Shine is a UK-registered charity that aims to tackle illiteracy amongst the poorest, most vulnerable children in Africa. Shine currently works in Zambia through its local branch, Shine Zambia.

Shine’s vision is of a Zambia in which every child can read and write
Our mission is to help alleviate poverty in Zambia by tackling one of its underlying causes – illiteracy – among children in its poorest parts. We are achieving this through a free literacy school for orphans and vulnerable children in a poverty-stricken shanty town in Lusaka. 

We aim to empower children with the skills they need to escape the cycle of poverty into which they were born.

How and why Shine was formed

shine4Shine was formed by Vineet Bhatnagar, an IT professional from London who took time off work to volunteer as a teacher in a Zambian community school for 6 months in 2005. He was so moved by the experience that he gave up his job and set up a charity to address the problem of illiteracy.

Whilst working as a volunteer, Vineet noticed that many children in the school could not read, regardless of their Grade or age. He set up a remedial literacy program and taught many illiterate children how to read. Soon after, Vineet developed his idea of dedicated literacy programs to share the gift of literacy with many more African children.

Our literacy school – Shine Zambia Reading Academy

shine5To achieve its aim, Shine has built its own school called Shine Zambia Reading Academy in the compound of Kalikiliki, Lusaka. The school currently (in October 2013) has 150 pupils and 8 local teachers. It charges no fees and its focus is to teach illiterate children how to read and write. We enrol children who are out of school due to lack of money or school places, and between the ages of 8 and 12. The program lasts for 2-3 years and consists mainly of phonics lessons, English grammar, key word learning, story telling and guided reading practise.

When pupils complete the program and pass the final exams, they ‘graduate’ and Shine places them in nearby government schools directly in Grade 5, 6 or 7 so they can continue in formal education.

Promoting a culture of reading

shine7Our ambition is to ignite a culture of reading and to instil a love of books, both in our school and in the wider community. Our school library was set up with this in mind and is the only decent library for miles around. It provides a valuable resource for the children at our school and the local community. The Shine library has around 9,500 books, all donated by well-wishers in the UK and US.

The books we use and how we source them

At Shine, we have many children’s books in our library. It is wonderful to see the excitement on a child’s face when they hold a book for the first time! There are some specific books that we like to use:

  • Happy Readers – this is a set of books written specifically for African children and therefore use African themes and images, so that children can relate to the stories. The children at Shine love these books! For more information on Happy Readers go to

  • Reading Revival – this is a toolkit produced by a UK-based company to help teachers and parents with children who are struggling with their reading. At Shine, the toolkit has proved a big success – our teachers are now using it regularly with pupils who are falling behind in class. Go to for more information

  • Oxford Reading Tree – we also use the Oxford Reading Tree phonics books. We have been fortunate enough to receive most of these books as donations. Reading Revival donated a toolkit to Shine and many Oxford Reading Tree books were donated by schools in the UK.

  • How you can help

    shine8We desperately need monthly donors to help us run our school in Zambia. Since we are a very small charity, and employ no staff, we have very low admin costs meaning that almost 100% of donations go directly to our literacy school.
    It costs approximately £12 per month to put one child through our literacy program, including a daily meal at the school. It costs around £50 to feed two of our classes for a month and around £100 to pay a teacher’s monthly salary.

    A donation of just £12 per month would give one Zambian child the gift of literacy. To set up a monthly donation to Shine, go to For more information on Shine, visit our website at or go to our Facebook page at


    I’m really glad to be able to spread the word about Shine. If you know of any other literacy/reading charities which are not included in my list, please let me know and I’ll add them.

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