Mobile Library Promotes Reading in Rural Areas

The mobile library has 1,470 members,  most of whom are primary schoolchildren.The mobile library has 1,470 members,  most of whom are primary schoolchildren.

The average university graduate aspires to make it big in large cities, to get somewhere in their field of study, to have a job that pays well and to live a comfortable life.

But there are some people, like Mohammad Saffari Mehrban, who have different aspirations: They want to encourage young people to read.

Saffari, 35, has been driving a minibus-cum-library to 19 underprivileged villages around Tabas in South Khorasan Province every summer since he received his bachelor’s degree in education nine years ago.

His mobile library has “exactly 1,470 members” and holds 7,000 books, according to Mehr News Agency.

Saffari’s job is not only limited to handing out books. Every time he visits a village, he arranges a gathering with children in the local mosque, there they sing songs and draw, and sometimes he tells them stories.

“After they hear a story, they come asking for its book; it makes them more eager to read,” he says.

What’s disheartening him, however, is the declining rural population—something he’s been a witness to for almost a decade.

“There are many villages around Tabas that I visit regularly and I have seen the drop in their populations,” he said. “Some villages are practically empty.”

The children visiting his library are between 6 and 16 years. Primary school kids make up the bulk of his audience, because older children spend most of their time in summer working on farms.

“The number of books checked out of this library is higher than in cities,” Saffari said. He says children in rural areas are more inclined to read books, as opposed to urban folks who are glued to their smartphones and tablets.

The mobile library belongs to the Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults, and many others like Saffari spend their summers driving to underdeveloped villages to provide children with books.

“We have been told to visit villages around 35 kilometers from where we’re based; however, one of the villages I visit regularly is 100 km away,” he said. “The eagerness in young villagers to read is what drives me to visit remote places.”     

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