Wed, Mar 07, 2018 - Page 4 News List

Hsinchu bookstore owner reaching out to rural immigrants

By Hung Mei-hsiu and Sherry Hsiao  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Lin Chun holds children’s books in various Southeast Asian languages at Casa de Socrates Cafe in Hsinchu City on Monday last week.

Photo: Hung Mei-hsiu, Taipei Times

Inspired by the growing number of immigrants in the nation, Lin Chun (林群) has transformed Casa de Socrates Cafe, a secondhand bookstore at Hsinchu City’s National Tsing Hua University, into a collection of children’s books.

Originally, Casa de Socrates Cafe mainly collected Chinese-language and English-language secondhand books, Lin said.

However, he has now created what he calls a “mobile book house” out of a van to transport different kinds of books to Aboriginal communities in rural and mountainous areas so that the children in those communities also have access to children’s books.

Over the past few years, he has discovered on his journeys that many immigrants have settled in rural and mountainous regions, Lin said.

Increasing numbers of Vietnamese, Indonesian, Thai and Cambodian spouses have appeared, he said, adding that these foreign spouses are hardworking and they have gradually filled the demand for more workers in mountainous communities.

However, they left their home nations to move to Taiwan, speak an unfamiliar language and are forced to respect Taiwanese culture, Lin said.

Inspired by what he observed, Lin said he decided to turn Casa de Socrates Cafe into a source of children’s books for these immigrants’ offspring.

He used his holidays to travel to Southeast Asian nations and purchase the most popular children’s books to bring back to Taiwan.

He even came across a Vietnamese version of a picture book by Taiwanese illustrator Jimmy Liao (幾米), he said.

His collection now includes books from six nations — Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines — while Burmese books are soon to be added to the collection, Lin said.

People can read the books for free at the store and they are also be added to his “mobile book house” so that foreign spouses and their children can enjoy them, Lin said.

One out of every five young people in Taiwan is a now the child of an immigrant, Lin said.

They are a part of Taiwan’s future talent pool, he added.

“One important issue that the nation is facing is how to get the children of immigrants to engage with their mother country, language and culture,” he said.

Lin said he hopes that through the establishment of his collection of books at the cafe, immigrants can not only look back on their own childhoods, but also pass on their native languages to the next generation.

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