You’ve Never Seen a Textbook Like This Before

How PSE institutions are changing lives across the globe with one simple act. 

Travelling is what books do best. They are portable, can go anywhere, don’t need to be recharged, can be shared and borrowed. They travel into the hands of another knowledge seeker and are ready to transform the life of its new owner. 

Now take a moment and consider the textbook in the modern world. How it plays a first step in transforming lives. Think of its travels, its adventures from the desk of one student across an ocean away, to a lab, classroom, or lecture hall of another student. 

The textbook cares not about country, race, politics, or gender. It can be a goodwill ambassador, and its only concern is to share knowledge. And in doing so, it has the power to influence and empower of the world’s future engineers, historians, doctors, wherever a student is studying. 

At least, that’s how Chris Janssen sees the modern textbook. 

His journey to Rwanda in 2013 to teach at the University of Finance and Banking in Kigali inspired Janssen to see the textbook in this remarkable way. He watched his students huddled around a single photocopy of a textbook, and when he was in the library, he stared at the empty shelves and thought about ways to fill them.

Then he had a vision. 

He saw the textbook as a representation of what it means to be human.

While exploring through the empty library, Janssen began to see the textbook as more than a physical collection of ideas, theories, and formulas. He saw the textbook as a representation of what it means to be human. He saw that textbooks, like all great works of literature, love to travel and be shared. In fact, he realized that embedded in every book is a wanderlust, the spirit of travel from backpack to backpack, country to country, sharing and participating in a collective human experience. And of course, the real power is that embedded in every textbook, is knowledge. 

Janssen had never thought of a textbook in this particular way and infused an original money-raising concept with renewed focus. If he could make the journey to Africa, why couldn’t a textbook – why couldn’t millions of textbooks? What if he collected used post-secondary textbooks and sold them back to new students at a discounted price? Five hundred dollars later, Janssen was in business and the seeds for Textbooks for Change were planted.

Today, not only have 52,000 previously used textbooks made it into the hands of university students in Africa (where students borrow textbooks from their campus library), but 71,000 textbooks have also found homes in Canadian student backpacks or have been recycled. Janssen and his team hope to donate over one million textbooks to East African University Libraries along with over two million dollars to socially purposed student clubs in Canada. This is only the beginning and Textbooks for Change needs your help.

To get involved, host a Textbooks for Change dropbox at your post-secondary institution, or create a book drive through your preferred campus club or society. 

Textbooks for Change needs post-secondary partners who see the textbook as they do - as a catalyst of knowledge that can span continents. If you’re a post-secondary librarian, student leader or part of the facilities management team, it’s easy to get a drop box, or many, on your campus. This small box, just 4x2 feet size can do big things.

“You can create an immense amount of impact all over the world,” says Textbooks for Change’s Adam Frye. “All we require is the space to place a dropbox and we handle the rest from there.”

When you share a textbook, you are sharing knowledge.
— Adam Frye

The truth is that textbooks are expensive no matter where you live in the world. For some, this causes unwelcome additions to the final student loan tally. For others, it’s an absolute barrier to education. By hosting a dropbox or organizing a book drive, you’ll be making a statement that education matters, that textbooks care not for privilege or wealth, that they have much more work to do beyond the scope of their original owner. “When you share a textbook, you are sharing knowledge,” says Frye. “The decision to drop a textbook in a big brown box allows you to transform the educational landscape around the world.”

Textbooks speak a common language, the language of opportunity, a multilingual expression of self-empowerment, and the language of dreams, and unite the world by making education a right, not a privilege. Textbooks for Change understands this. If you do, too, give textbooks the opportunity to fly, to tell more stories of global travel, adventure and dreams.  

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