Surf the Web, Read a Story, Help Support A Movement
A new fund-raising campaign will give people the chance to help Indonesian literacy charities, not by shelling out money but by going online and reading.
Relaunched last Monday, the Asia Foundation’s Books for Asia campaign promotes access to literature among children in secluded parts of Indonesia, and thanks to a partnership with online initiative We Give Books, anyone with access to the Internet can help achieve that goal.
Every time someone reads a children’s book on their Web site — wegivebooks.org — We Give Books will donate to an umbrella of local charities that promote literacy among youth in places ranging from poor Java neighborhoods to the nations most isolated islands.
The initial target, to encourage people to read 1,000 books online, was met in just four days. Given the quick success, Books for Asia raised its goal to 5,000 books.
“The campaign was put up worldwide on the Web site so that anyone, anywhere could support it,” said Aryasatyani Sintadewi, who helps run Books for Asia.
We Give Books was created by the Penguin Group publishing house and the Pearson Foundation, which last year collected 30,000 books in just two months in a similar campaign.
“Seeing the success of that campaign, Books for Asia asked Pearson Asia Pacific to add more books, from 1,000 to 5,000,” Aryasatyani said.
The Asia Foundation has also collaborated with the Drive Books, Not Cars project in Jakarta. In January during car-free day, the two groups collected 200 English-language books at eX Plaza Indonesia mall in Central Jakarta.
The project, which has been running since last year, sells secondhand books and gives the proceeds to Sahabat Anak, a foundation that supports the education of marginalized “street” children, and Taman Bacaan Pelangi (Rainbow Reading Gardens), which has established libraries for children in remote villages of eastern Indonesia.
Taman Bacaan Pelangi encourages children to learn through fictional stories, supplementing the comparatively dry textbooks they get at school and promoting reading as an enjoyable pastime.
In Indonesia, with a culture evolving from oral traditions, reading has been slow to take hold.
But advocates have been persistent, saying reading can help expand children’s imaginations and broaden their knowledge, especially in the far corners of the archipelago where access to television, the Internet and media generally tend to be limited.
Taman Bacaan Pelangi has established 23 small libraries in remote villages, with five new branches this year, including in East Nusa Tenggara, West Nusa Tenggara and South Sulawesi.
The Books for Asia campaign will donate English-language children’s books to these libraries, whose shelves currently hold collections ranging from 400 to 12,000 titles.
Schools in these villages also try to teach students English during their fourth year of elementary school, and organizers hope the donated books will reinforce those efforts.
“Having new books on the shelves is very exciting for the children,” said Nila Tanzil, the founder of Taman Bacaan Pelangi. “Seeing these new books already motivates them to read and learn English.
“The unique feature of the Rainbow Reading Gardens, is that every six months, books from a village are swapped with books from another library from a nearby village,” she added.
“So the books are always new, which keeps the kids excited.”
She said Taman Bacaan Pelangi will be grateful for the Asia Foundation’s contributions.
“It’s very hard to access books in remote parts of Indonesia,” she said. “Bookstores are rare, even school libraries’ collections are limited, and for that, we need all the support we can get.”