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Mobile book carts help children in remote communities to read

The green, yellow and red cart rolls around as dozens of wide-eyed children gather to get a peek at what’s on offer.

There’s a buzz of excitement as they look through the many books on the wooden shelves until one catches their eye.

Books of different colours and sizes, and for all ages, deck the cart, and among the children’s smiling faces is cart driver Ayub.

“Before using the cart, I would carry the books in a backpack and I would travel to villages,” he says.

For the past six years the high school sports teacher has transported the reading cart to five villages –Wanga, Praikarang, Pambota Djara, Makaminggit and Homba Karipit – on Sumba island, eastern Indonesia, to encourage children to read and to help communities improve their literacy.

Ayub, a former sponsored child, runs one of the five reading carts on Sumba island.

Today Ayub has parked the cart outside Sayang Anak kindergarten in Makaminggit village.

The kindergarten children, as well as students from primary and high schools nearby, have come to search through the array of titles on offer.

Some sit alone to read while others gather with their friends, talking over one another in excitement as they discuss the stories.

For Ayub, a former ChildFund sponsored child, running the reading cart is a way to show his appreciation for the support he has had over the years.

“I want to give back to the community, as the community has helped me through ChildFund,” he says.

His cart is one of five that travels across Sumba to provide children and their families in remote villages with books they otherwise would never have been able to access.

Distributing books to poor and remote villages in Sumba is a logistical nightmare and this has driven book prices sky-high on the island, making them unaffordable for many families.

However, this hasn’t dampened children’s interest and eagerness to read and improve their literacy.

Since ChildFund Indonesia and Sumba Integrated Development partnered with local community members to establish the Reading Cart program in 2012, more than 1,000 children alone have visited Ayub’s cart to read and borrow books.

Across the five carts, there are more than 3,000 books for loan.

Sumba Integrated Development program officer Andreas says the program not only provides children with access to books that help improve and develop their knowledge about the world around them, it also provides a place for children to play and socialise while directly getting the benefits of reading.

“This program aims to assist children in improving and increasing cognitive skills, verbal and written knowledge, visual skills, cultural knowledge, and moral values,” Andreas says.

Wanga village head Dedy says the reading cart has helped address the illiteracy problem in his community.

“We have around half of my community that can’t read or write,” he says. “Parents don’t teach their children at home because they themselves can’t read or write.

“I can see our children’s excitement whenever the reading cart arrives to our village … I wish more books and titles can be added to the cart so our people here in Wanga village can have more knowledge.”

Ayub says the program not only benefits children in the community but also adults looking to improve their language and reading skills. Parents who accompany their children to the reading cart often end up reading books as well.

Wherever it goes, he says, the bright wooden cart brings a sense of hope and excitement to the communities it visits, and attracts curious villagers, both young and old.

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