‘Rare’ books evoke love for reading in remote areas

Update: September, 10/2017 - 09:00
A new page: Children enjoy reading books at a library in the northern province of Cao Bằng. Photo
Viet Nam News

Bùi Thị Phượng of Nghĩa Lộ Town in the northern province of Yên Bái, wanted a collection of stories to gift her daughter on her birthday.

However, she was unable to find the perfect gift despite wandering around book stores in the town for several hours.

There were stories selling text books, but almost none had literature on their shelves.

“I then had to ask for help from a friend in Hà Nội to buy a collection of books for my daughter,” she said.

The paucity of literature works is not confined to Nghĩa Lộ Town. This is common to rural and mountainous areas all over the country.

Thọ Xuân District in the central province of Thanh Hóa is a place with a higher standard of living in comparison with other localities in the province, but there are just six private book stores offering new and old textbooks as well as stationery. Store owners said locals seldom ask for children’s story books, so there is no point keeping them.

At a recent conference on books for children in rural and mountainous areas, experts said there were 100 publishers throughout the country and 13,700 book stores and book centres, and nearly 300 private publishing companies. However most of the companies were based in large cities and remote areas had very few publishing units.

Phạm Thế Khang, Chairman of the Việt Nam Library Association, said it was sad that not only had the book distribution network become smaller and smaller in rural and mountainous areas, libraries at rural schools were offering only textbooks.

“And they don’t even have enough textbooks to lend to local pupils for study,” he said. “The other source of books – the public library – is uncommon.”

Vũ Dương Thúy Ngà, head of the Library Department under the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, admitted that public and school libraries in mountainous areas lacked books.

“One reason for this is that these libraries are rarely able to afford to update their inventory with more literature books,” she said, “Besides, the national programme on supplying books for district libraries in remote and offshore areas has ended.

“The shortage has also resulted in local youth not caring about developing a reading habit,” Khang said. “That has created a larger gap between urban and rural, plain and mountainous areas. This is a loss that cannot be compensated for children in the affected areas.”

Know this story?: Nguyễn Quang Thạch (centre) has spent years encouraging people to set up bookcases for children in rural areas. Photo

Several solutions

Ngà said the first measure the Library Department has taken to tackle this situation was to move more and more books from provincial and district public libraries in the plains to remote and mountainous areas.

Some localities such as Yên Bái and the southern province of Đồng Tháp, have organised mobile libraries to serve children in remote areas.

Last year, the department established a project to open mobile libraries in cars, funded by private sources. As many as five such cars have reached five provinces -- Sơn La, Quảng Nam, Nghệ An, Gia Lai and An Giang.

Carrying both books and computers, these vehicles have been a boon for children in remote areas.

Many people and groups have volunteered to bring books to needy children. The most active project among these is Sách Hóa Nông Thôn (Books for Rural Areas), initiated by Nguyễn Quang Thạch. For more than 10 years, Thạch and his colleagues have set up nearly 10,000 book cases in various provinces and cities.

The Tủ Sách Lam Sơn (Lam Sơn Bookcase) project by intellectuals and the business community from Thanh Hóa has also supported schools in setting up bookcases in their classrooms.

A group of businessmen from Hải Hậu District in Nam Định Province has launched a programme to set up 12,662 bookcases in Nam Định. The aim is to supply enough books to 10 districts in the province, benefiting children from kindergartens to high school students.

After retiring, Hà Duyên Sơn, former headmaster of the Thọ Xuân High School in Thanh Hóa, used his family’s book collection to set up the Hà Duyên Đạt Private Library that has more than 2,500 books of all genres for all ages.

The library is free and it currently has 500 regular readers.

“Each day, the library receives up to 50 visitors who read there or borrow books to take home,” Sơn said.

Ngà said the State and individuals joining hands to bring more books to remote areas had encouraged the love for books among children.

“It helps children learn better and become substantial citizens of the locality in the future,” she said. — VNS