The Internet is the mecca for information-seekers, enabling us to connect wirelessly and effortlessly to vast resources of knowledge. Whilst search engines have arguably conquered the traffic of this knowledge, they can’t quite recreate the traditional repositories of the printed word.
Primarily in cities, schools have integrated digital means of learning, retreating from textbooks and putting ink on paper for both economic and environmental factors. Many children today may not be able to romanticise their quiet moments in a library. In Bali, most public schools are not equipped with libraries or reading corners, however thanks to Books for Bali Project, more children are enjoying the wonders of reading.
In Ubud, Ganesha Bookshop owners and parents, Ketut Yuliarsa and Anita Scheeres, learnt during the time their son attended a local public school that the space had no area for books. Having grown up around literature, their son was a keen reader, but his peers did not read nor own any story books of their own.
In 2017, 3.4 million Indonesians were still illiterate but according to Knoema, Bali’s literacy rate reached 92.98% in 2018, which is only a 0.09% increase from previous years.
“Bali’s illiteracy rate is still quite high unfortunately – especially amongst the older folk. But we are slowly having an impact on the youth and that will change everything in the future,” Anita told NOW! Bali.
Books for Bali Project had a grass roots beginning but has blossomed into a community project run by Ganesha Bookshop, a local bookstore established in the 80s. Upon learning how books are direly inaccessible to schools, Ketut and Anita decided to make a small contribution to Balinese society by enticing the children to read for pleasure.
They started the project by donating books to school libraries. Now, it is largely the bookstore’s customers who keep the project going and growing; and anyone can participate. For the price of a cup of coffee, you can buy and donate a book that will be read and read again by many children.
The typical donation is story books with colourful pictures to engage the young reader, as well as books about the environment to encourage them to protect the island in which they live in. Anita and Ketut heavily curate the children’s books so that they supply beautifully-illustrated, culturally-sensitive reads.
“There are some good books now about oceans, animals, and plastic waste that are really targeting the young Balinese child. In time, we will see this pay off.”
“We are communicating directly with the schools and the reception is always open. There is a great deal of eagerness by the school principals to receive books for their libraries. Government can only do so much, so we can help in our small way.”
The project works closely with Bali Children Foundation, whom are instrumental in their work. Together they help renovate or rebuild school libraries, collaborate with teachers to create more positive reading and learning experiences such as story time, craft projects, and so on. When the library room is updated and repainted, Books for Bali Project then fill the selves with book donations.
To date, there are around 50 schools in remote areas of Bali receiving book donations, with many donors returning year after year bringing books from overseas or purchasing the books in-store to donate to a school.
The children get very excited when a new batch of books are added to the collection. They rush to see what’s new and gather around to read.
“They are learning to look after the books too, and carefully place them back on the shelves. In some schools we have after-school activities whereby the children can learn a little English by reading the bilingual books.”
“They are a joy to watch, as they practice their language skills. We are always on the lookout for books in Bahasa Bali, too – as we would like to support local language learning.”
Bali for Books Project accepts book donations. If you have children’s books you no longer need, consider donating. Books can be dropped off at Ganesha Bookshop, or come into the store to purchase a book to be donated to the project.
Ganesha Bookshop Bali
Jalan Raya Ubud, Ubud
+62 361 970320