Indonesian helps turn page for literacy with library
By Arlina Arshad ,AFPPEMAGARSARI, Indonesia -- Kiswanti went to great lengths to get people to read in Indonesia, a nation addicted to social media but with a lacklustre interest in books.
December 29, 2012, 12:05 am TWN
For six years, as she cycled on bumpy village mud tracks in western Java as a door-to-door herbal medicine vendor, Kiswanti would carry a stack of books on the back of her bike to lend to children.
Her humble efforts have snowballed and her modest village is now home to a library, a rare sight even in Indonesia's biggest cities.
“Reading gives you knowledge and knowledge is power. Nobody, no matter how poor, should be deprived of reading,” Kiswanti, 46, told AFP.
Kiswanti gave up her days as a “mobile librarian” in 2005 when a liver illness struck, confining her to her tiny concrete block house in Pemagarsari village, where narrow dirt trails lead off the main road.
As a neighbor kept the mobile library on its wheels, international and local donors caught wind of the initiative and fronted the cash to start the Lebakwangi Reading House, which now boasts a collection of 5,000 titles.
“This library is a dream come true. I had to pinch myself many times to make sure it was real,” Kiswanti said in the library, set up in the house next to hers.
The library gets around 100 visitors a day, mostly students, and Kiswanti is plotting ways to expand her reach, already touting her library to teachers and students at schools in three villages.
Indonesia has an impressive literacy rate for a developing nation — nine out of 10 adults can read, the World Bank reports — but books are considered luxury items for many of its 240 million people, half of whom live on less than US$2 a day.
The country has a much richer tradition of oral story-telling, with age-old shadow puppet shows and plays still popular.