Book Project

Local Language Book Project:
Ready Set Go Books

This project is about creating colorful, culturally-appropriate books for Ethiopia. Millions of people in Ethiopia are eager to practice reading:

  • Students in overcrowded classrooms that may contain no books at all
  • Women who didn’t have a chance to go to school
  • People of all ages who’ve never before seen words printed in their heart language

Award-winning children’s book author Jane Kurtz and her sister Caroline - who learned to read as children growing up in Maji, Ethiopia, are volunteering their time and artistic talents to create easy-to-read books inspired by stories, proverbs, and scenes from daily life in Ethiopia. An army of volunteers has stepped forward to help with illustration, translation, and design. Jane Kurtz leads the Creative team and Steffani Stephens, a former Microsoft Program Manager, leads the Production team.


The shiniest books for children make it all look easy.

Anyone who has tried to create a successful children’s book knows though, that a lot of deep-water sloshes around that shiny little iceberg tip.

For Ready Set Go Books, 2017 was a year of experimenting and failing, mistakes and dead ends - mixed in with a few crucial successes. Learning from those mistakes set up 2018 to be a terrific year. Open Hearts Big Dreams managed to publish 45 colorful, culturally-appropriate, local language books for readers in the U.S. and Ethiopia.

How we do it:


New Releases

How did that happen?

An inspiring number of people who saw early examples of the Ready Set Go Books stepped up to ask how they could help. Artists and children donated art. Ethiopian translators got involved. A group of educators at the International Community School in Addis Ababa came together to write and translate some stories. We now have a Creative team in Oregon and a Production team in Seattle that work beautifully together to solve baffling challenges.

When Jane Kurtz asked Yemisirach, head of the Ethiopia Reads office in Addis Ababa, what she thought of the first Ready Set Go books, she said, “I like them because they’re innovative. Ethiopians in my generation want to learn how to be more innovative.” Recently, she gave a peek into her 2018 efforts to share the books.

A teacher-librarian praised the small number of words per page and added, “The curriculum guides that go with each book are very helpful in teaching us how we should read for the children in fun ways while they learn from the story. It made me realize that I was doing this in a wrong way for so long."

Here’s twelve-year-old Nardos: “I love reading all of these books because they have interesting and catchy stories and I like retelling the stories to my friends, siblings and in the classroom.

Seven-year-old Rediet especially likes the book Fire. “It’s informative,” she says. “These books tell us about things that are around us that we don't pay attention to every day.

Eleven-year-old Anteneh points to We Can Stop the Lion and calls it his favorite “because the story has a very strong message and it made me admire the strengths of the spiders.

Global researchers find that children do better all the way through school if they first learn to read in their heart languages. Ready Set Go Books works with native speakers to provide translations in local languages. The little books give beginning readers bright and engaging stories so they can practice their reading skills.

Ready Set Go Books is an OHBD project which creates and publishes these books.  Our goal is 200 unique titles to help increase the literary rate in Ethiopia. The books are available in North American and Europe on Amazon sites – follow our author page here to hear about new books published.  Proceeds from book sales support producing and distributing more Ready Set Go books in Ethiopia.

Our books are also being carried by Seattle Public Libraries. If you'd like to get Ready Set Go books in your school or library, please contact us for more information how to do so. We do offer preferred pricing for schools and libraries.

A fun video about this project made by Denver volunteers:

We also need proofreaders. We are seeking native speakers of the three core Ethiopian languages: Tigrinya, Afaan Oromo, and Amharic, to proofread (making sure punctuation hasn’t been inadvertently left out, for example) and to make sure that text is placed correctly into the books. Native speakers of Tigrinya, Oromo (or Afaan Oromo), or Amharic must be familiar with email, PDFs and DropBox.

We are also looking for schools, churches or other organizations that want to sponsor book creation including raising funds, choosing the stories, creating the art, and directing where they would like books to be first distributed.

We need volunteers to do outreach to schools and libraries in the US about carrying our Ready Set Go Books. Seattle Public Library is carrying all our books and has a standing order for new titles quarterly. We know kids in the US would enjoy our books and each book sold funds multiple books printed and distributed in Ethiopia.

We also need grant writers to solicit funds from organizations focused on literacy in Ethiopia.