It’s no secret that books can change a person’s life and growth, and for children this is even more true. The harsh truth is this is a fact that many of us can take for granted without realizing it. Depending on where you live, access to books may be as easy as a click of the mouse. But what about those who have no internet access or even basic necessities? This article is taking a very depressing turn, my apologies, and let me turn this around and say there is hope.
That hope is in a little thing called “mobile libraries.” It’s a new movement occurring in different areas throughout the world, and it brings books, community, and hope to these children looking to shoot for the stars.
Bokbaten Epos (The Library Boat) – Norway
Image via Elite Readers
With humble beginnings in 1959, the idea of a sea borne library was created and pioneered by who else but librarians. Many small communities that live on islands in the Fjords are virtually isolated from the world in Winter. As small communities, they do not have libraries of their own, and that’s how the Library Boat came to be. The purpose and hope of those behind these boats is to enrich the lives of the isolated communities. With the 6,000 print and audio books that the boat brings, culture and entertainment is brought to the people in what is normally a very bleak time for them. The crew behind this noble cause is the captain to navigate the icy seas, a couple of librarians of course, and a cook and two entertainers to boot! Sounds like the perfect way to warm up on a cold day.
Arma de Instruccion Masiva (Weapon of Mass Instruction) – Argentina
Image via Público
The “Weapon of Mass Instruction” is an art/social project created by artist Raúl Lemesoff. The mobile sculpture is a tuned 1979 Ford Falcon shaped in the appearance of a mini-military tank, barrel and all. According to the blog Público, Raúl’s design most likely “mockingly refers to the tanks of the sinister Military Junta that dismissed Isabel Perón in 1976″, which, in short, was a very politically turbulent time for the country. More than making a political statement however, Raúl’s project is a movement, and I’m not talking about the motor function. The idea is what was once a weapon will now be used to donate books. Transporting more than 2,500 books at a time, Raúl travels across the country to bring culture and education to the to the most disadvantaged neighborhoods of Argentine cities. After nine years of book donating, the “Weapon of Mass Instruction” is considered a symbol of protest against actual weapons of mass destruction. The pen is mightier than the sword after all, so rather than being a force of destruction, Raúl Lemesoff’s project is a beacon of peace and reprieve for the youth of Argentina.
Biblioburro (The Donkey Library) – Colombia
Image via PBS
This book donating program was created in La Gloria, Colombia, by Luis Soriano. As a teacher, Luis was concerned that his students had no access to books at home, and decided to do something about it. What he created was a traveling library that distributes books to its patron from the backs of two Donkeys. Rather than packing the saddles with water, Soriano has adapted his two Donkeys’, Alfa and Beto’s, packsaddles to carry books. Luis’ mission is that people will understand the power of reading and that communities can improve with the right support. How right he is. More than 4,000 children have have benefited from Soriano’s program since it began in 1990. In an interview with BBC, Soriano shared his belief in a child’s growth.
“Kids wise up when they pick up a book. Their surprise and imagination meet together, you see them starting to laugh by themselves, just by seeing the book.”
The Kenyan Camel Library – Kenya
Image via Wired
Similar to Luis Soriao’s Biblioburro, The Kenyan Camel Library is a mobile library of camels carrying books. Operated by the Garisa office of the Kenya National Library Service, these camels brings books to children in isolated, poor schools within a 15 kilometer radius of the city. With nine camels and three caravans, lends more than 7,000 books to nomads in Kenya’s impoverished North East Province, trekking across vast desserts for days at a time. In spite of the trials, the service has found huge success, with 3,500 members registered. Every time the Camels travel through a town, they are welcomed with open arms and with the glow of excitement on every child’s face. The service is so popular they can’t meet the demand of books, but with what they can do it has made a world of a difference to these children who otherwise would not have as much opportunity.
Bibliomotocarro (Booktruck) – Italy
Image via giornalemio.it
Retired school teacher Antonio La Cava is the mastermind behind Italy’s booktruck. He put his love of learning and books to use and converted his three-wheeled van into a mobile library with a very homey look to it. The booktruck has a very a welcoming design of a house, complete with a tiled roof, chimney, windows, and a fireplace, but no worry about that last part. The children’s books that Antonio carries are safe from any fire of course. Reaching the most remote places in Italy such as the villages and small towns, Antonio has traveled more than 100,000 kilometers, on three different trucks. For over 16 years he has spread the wonder of reading to children who formerly did not have access to it. Living his retirement to the fullest by continuing his passion as a teacher, Antonio hopes his booktruck brings the message that culture is made by and for everyone, not just a privileged few. In an interview with BBC, Antonio shared his hopes with the world.
“I was strongly worried about growing old in a country of non-readers….carrying out such action has a value, not only social, not only cultural, but has a great ethical meaning.”
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Featured Image via inkefalonia
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