Most of us do not normally associate opening a library with the excitement of a sports event. And yet, the arrival of books selected by China Schools Foundation at its project primary schools in Shaanxi Province created that same air of enthusiasm and interest as the students surged forward to sort and select books appropriate to their age and grade levels. It was a contest in which everyone was a winner.
Everybody got into the act – the managing director of the multinational company sponsoring this CSR project, the factory staff and workers, and the school’s teachers and students all played their parts in setting up these libraries on one cold Saturday in December. A 1,000-book library purchased at an average cost of around ￥12, little more than US $1.75 per book, must be one of the best educational values in China or anywhere.
In instances where rural schools do have ‘libraries’, they are typically locked rooms with a collection of aging texts of little interest to primary age readers. CSF arranges with its project schools to dedicate suitable spaces to these new learning centers, equips them with child-friendly furnishings and decor, and provides a full complement of fiction, nonfiction and reference books geared to different age and reading levels. It provides cataloging materials and basic training in library operation and management. Most importantly, with the support of the Education Bureaus, these libraries are open to students throughout the school day — between classes or during lunch and recreational periods – and the books may be checked out by students or their parents. In the absence of any similar resource in most villages, the ability of students to take books home and share them with family and friends, transforms these libraries into a community-wide resource.