GEMS CEO and student-author record children’s audiobook to mark International Literacy Day

• Little Bird – A Book for Toddlers written by Year 7 GEMS Metropole School student • Book voiced by GEMS CEO to be added to charitable book-share platform Kupepo • Kupepo, inspired by a GEMS student, provides books for underprivileged children

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Dino Varkey, GEMS Education Group CEO, has joined 11-year-old student-author Diaco Taaeb to record a digital book for Kupepo, a free digital platform providing eBooks for children who have limited access to libraries.

Recorded on the eve of International Literacy Day on 8 September, the audiobook of Little Bird – A Book for Toddlers, which was written by Diaco, a student in Year 7 at GEMS Metropole School – Motor City, will be uploaded to Kupepo.com and made available for disadvantaged school children – initially in Africa and eventually in other parts of the world as the platform expands.

Dino Varkey, Group CEO, GEMS Education, said: “As a father first and foremost, I am truly delighted to be able to support this worthwhile charitable initiative that is enabling children around the world to share in the joy of reading and discovering books. At a time when the impact of the pandemic has caused disruptions to learning, especially in under-developed nations, and heightened educational inequalities across the world, opportunities like this remind us of the immeasurable power and pleasure of reading and writing.”

Little Bird – A Book for Toddlers was written last year during the UAE’s lockdown period. Its author, Diaco, was inspired by his little brother who loved being read to, and when his family had read every book in the house, Diaco decided to write his own book for his younger sibling.

Diaco Taaeb said: “I’m so happy that I’ve been able to support this project with my book. It feels great to know that I’m helping other school children just like me to have access to free books.”

Kupepo.com is the digital arm of ‘Old Books for New Eyes’, an initiative that is the brain-child of Khushi Gadhia, a Year 5 student at GEMS Jumeirah Primary School. Khushi came up with the idea of collecting old books and donating them to schools in Kenya during a school Ramadan project.

Through Kupepo, students, teaching staff and independent authors can read a favourite book, or a self-authored book, for their peers in underprivileged schools globally with a single objective – to enhance children’s literacy, vocabulary and knowledge. To date, the project has set up 30 libraries in rural Kenya, and recorded over 120 books for its digital library, with Kupepo always open to receiving more entries.

Vikesh Gadhia, father of Khushi and founder of Kupepo, said: “Dino Varkey reading this book that was authored by a student is testament to the fact that GEMS Education not only promotes education, but also facilitates the growth of its students and nurtures their strengths. In a similar fashion, GEMS Jumeirah Primary School supported Khushi in commencing the Old Books for New Eyes project that has already collected more than 60,000 storybooks and commenced 30 libraries in Kenya. We are thankful for their full support and valuable contribution to the education of less fortunate children around the world.”