Taiwan's first bookmobile, equipped with copious books and colorful shelves and chairs, has started a tour around the country, providing an accessible and enjoyable reading experience to elementary school students living in remote areas.
Last Tuesday, the first Mobile Library Service made its debut at Penkang Elementary School in Taoyuan County's Hsinwu township in a festive atmosphere. When the blue van drove onto the school grounds, students followed closely behind the van, Pied Piper-style, eager to explore its contents.
Minister of Education Tu Cheng-sheng (杜正勝) and Taoyuan County Commissioner Chu Li-lun (朱立倫) joined project sponsors Diane Ying (殷允芃), chairwoman of Common Wealth Magazine Group, and Su Ching-yang (蘇慶陽), president of China Motor Corporation, as they opened the van's doors and announced the Mobile Library Service was now up and running.
As part of the year-long "Hopeful Reading Project" organized by these and seven other electronic enterprises and cultural foundations, the Mobile Library Service aims to foster an encouraging reading climate among elementary schools in remote areas with the help of voluntary teachers and college students.
China Motor Corporation donated the van and spent NT$700,000 to turn it into an impressive bookmobile carrying 500 titles together with bookshelves, chairs and ladders. A blackboard, an amplifier, a stereo and fold-up desks are also included.
"We believe that reading a good book can change a child's life," Ying said. "We also believe that education is the most important investment for society."
Ying said many studies had shown that cognitive development is linked to reading in childhood.
"Scientists have also found that if children do not develop a habit of reading regularly before the age of nine, they will very likely become outsiders in class, experiencing difficulty catching up with what textbooks and teachers say," Ying said.
"Moreover, globalization has reinforced the poverty gap and the differences between the city and the country in recent years," Ying said, adding that it was high time to help country children who do not have the same resources as city children to develop a love for books and reading.
According to Chiang Mei-man (
"I have been thinking that a motor vehicle is not supposed to be simply a means of transportation, but also a vehicle for promoting communication and interaction between people," Su said. "We hope the van that we have donated is not only a vehicle that carries books, but also one that can provide a friendly and accessible reading space for children."
"It's so great to have so many beautiful books to read," a nine-year-old boy at Penkang Elementary School said. "I'll come here to read everyday if the library car comes."
Tu said he understood the child-ren's feelings because he grew up in a poor fishing village and went through a difficult childhood with a strong hunger for reading.
"I believe that most children love reading and that they need to be inspired to take up the hobby," Tu said. "Hopefully in future the bookmobile will be these children's favorite car."
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