Bicycle Library in Afghanistan

from Global Citizen

This bicycle library is raising literacy rates in Afghanistan

By Gina Darnaud  APRIL 27, 2016

Every weekend, the children in Afghanistan cannot wait to welcome the teacher Saber Hosseini!

In Afghanistan, access to education is obstructed by a lack of resources and this is especially true in rural areas where the nearest school may be hours away. Saber is trying to change this unfair reality with his “bicycle library” that offers  children in these communities the opportunity to access a world of knowledge.

Literacy is one of the most accurate measures for predicting a child’s future. Unfortunately, where a child grows up often decides her access to education.

Saber is a schoolteacher in Bamiyan, the capital of the Bamyan province in central Afghanistan, which is one of the most poorest provinces in one of the poorest countries. Its mountainous geography and barren land often make education inaccessible…but that doesn’t stop Saber!

#MyAfghanHero is Saber Hussaini, man who runs his own children’s mobile library for 5 #Bamiyan villages

Many schools were destroyed through the violence of the past several years and children from remote villages were often forced to drop out, reversing earlier educational progress that had been made.

Saber came up with the idea for a bicycle library six months ago. After conversations with friends in literary circles, Saber was able to raise enough money to purchase 200 books. Working with volunteers, Saber traveled to the Iran border to purchase most of the library’s books because the publication of books in Afghanistan is severely limited.

Now six months later, through the support of communities and people around the world, the library has grown to 3,500 books and Saber has even opened the first public library in Bamiyan.

The literacy rate is on track to rise again all because because of a library stationed in a box on one man’s bicycle.

In the beginning of the project, Saber admits that he and volunteers would choose simple books, but now many of the children are able to read more advanced ones. The library has become so popular that some of adults are even using the library service and checking out advanced level children’s books.

Each time he visits a community, Saber speaks to the children about an important topic. He most commonly speaks of peace, the dangers of drugs, and the need for tolerance between people with different beliefs or cultures.

One time, he spoke to children about guns, and used the slogan “say no to guns, say yes to books.” The next time he returned to the same village, the children collected all of their toy guns and handed them over to Saber. This was a heartwarming gesture, but the kids wanted to bargain: they would forfeit their guns if they could be the first village in the next round of book deliveries so that they could get the first pick.

Saber has brought joy to many communities, but there are costs to his endeavor. He has received many threats and many have opposed his caring works. Even still, Saber continues to make room for the opportunity to learn. A library is more than just a pile of books, it is also a community of individuals willing to learn and discuss and grow.

Saber makes this library possible with his little bike, but in Afghanistan a bike is actually commonly seen as a negative object. The Taliban used to use bicycles in their bombing techniques, but Saber is rehabilitating the image and reassociating it with practicality and fun.

“When I hand the books out to them, I can see their excitement and joy,” Hosseini said. “It is the joy of being able to learn. I am also inspired.”

The power of education is something we should hold on to just like Saber did and still does.

Watch Saber in action here:

Bats Act as Pest Control at Two Old Portuguese Libraries

Bats Act as Pest Control at Two Old Portuguese Libraries

It’s not clear how long the bats have been doing this important job

The University of Coimbra’s grand old Biblioteca Joanina houses both books and bats.

For their new book, The Library: A World History, architectural historian James Campbell and photographer Will Pryce travelled the world to documentary of the architecture of book storage. And they found that libraries, writes Campbell, “can be much more than the dusty, dark wooden shelves.” Indeed, as The Boston Globe‘s Brainiac noticed, in a couple of cases, Campbell and Pryce found that these age-old institutions act as houses for not only books, but bats, too.

At Biblioteca Joanina and  the Mafra Palace Library, both, curiously, located in Portugal, and both built in the 18th century, small bats, about an inch long, act as guards against book-eating insects. The Globe reports on the bat-friendly places:

In an email, Campbell explained that the bats, which are less than inch long, roost during the day behind “elaborate rococo bookcases” and come out at night to hunt insects which otherwise would feast on the libraries’ books. The price of this natural insect control is paid in scat: The bats, Campbell writes, “leave a thin layer of droppings over everything. So each morning the floors have to be thoroughly cleaned…and the furniture has to be covered at night.”

It’s not clear how long the bats have been doing this important job, but Portugal, at least, is letting them take care of scaring away the book-eating bugs ( and probably certain human bookworms, too).


10 Book Dedications to Make You Smile

10 Book Dedications to Make You Smile

by Shan Williams   Jan 16, 2017    from For Reading Addicts

When you open the pages of a book for the very first time what do you do? Do you read everything that is available to you or are you a skipper? Do you ever read the dedications? I do, especially as now I have the honour of being mentioned in a dedication and also as we at For Reading Addicts appear on the back cover blurb for another.

Ever since I began reading these little gems from the many authors whose books I’ve read I’ve been pleasantly surprised by just how much many of our favourite authors share with us in those final few pages before the back cover is closed and some of them are outright hysterical. Take a look at these book dedications and then make sure you keep an eye out for any humorous ones you come across in your day to day reading.

House Of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

Short, sweet, and to the point. Fair enough Mark, but I still read the book.

The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer

Always listen to your grandmother; she knows.

Moorchild by Eloise McGraw

How amazing to know that there is someone out there who knows just exactly how you feel.

The House of Hades by Rick Riordan

Embrace your inner Titan Rick.

The Bookshop Book by Jen Campbell

You can see into my heart Jen.

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

You’re right Neil, we love you too.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

Come on Jenny, let’s not beat about the bush; say it like it is.

Over Seventy by P. G. Wodehouse

Nothing better than proving someone wrong is there.

No Way Back by Matthew Klein


Austenland by Shannon Hale

You blew it Mr Darcy, you had your chance and you blew it.

I’ve often heard of mystery book buys where the book is wrapped in brown paper and you purchase it purely on the basis of how the first line of the book sounds, I wonder if anyone has ever bought a book just because the dedication caught their eye?


Bring a book, ride the trains for free!

from The Independent


Special book given out as gift to readers during National Book Week is accepted instead of ticket

Jon Stone 4/1/2019

Dutch book lovers got free rail travel across their country’s entire network this weekend as part of the Netherlands’ annual book week celebrations.

Every year since 1932 the Netherlands has encouraged reading with Boekenweek– a celebration of literature marked with literary festivals and book signings across the country.

Traditionally, a well-known Dutch author writes a special novel – the “book week gift” or Boekenweekgeschenk – which is given out for free to people who buy books during the festivities or sign up to a library.

But the special book – this year the novel Jas Van Belofte by celebrated author Jan Siebelink, can also be presented instead of a rail ticket on every train in the country on the Sunday of book week.

Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS), the Dutch state railway company, has long been a sponsor of the annual festivities – and even organises book readings signings by top authors on its trains.

“It is good to see all those happily surprised faces of travellers,” author Jan Siebelink said after boarding a train for the city of Utrecht to meet passengers and read his book.

“We are talking about everything, including their journey. A traveller just said he was on his way to Velp, my birthplace. Often there are also children and I naturally hope that they start reading. That’s what we do it for.”

Murat Isik, who wrote the annual bookweek essay, a companion to the novel, added: “How incredibly beautiful and dynamic to meet readers on the train. Unfortunately, this is also the end of Book Week. A week full of wonderful meetings and conversations.”

This year the book week gift was given out by bookshops to anyone who spent €12.50 on Dutch-language books.

The state rail company, which has now been offering the annual free travel promotion for 18 years, said in a statement: “NS has a warm heart for reading, because reading is one of the favourite ways to spend time on the train.”

“That is why we have been the main sponsor of a number of reading campaigns for years, including Book Week.

“On Sunday 31 March, the Netherlands travelled en masse for free by train on presentation of the Book Week Gift, written by Jan Siebelink.”

NS is not the only railway company to accept physical objects in lieu of payment. This time last week for a week UK rail company Virgin Trains offered a 1/3 discount to passengers aged 18-30 who presented an avocado to ticket inspectors, as a dry joke about the delayed Millennial Railcard.

Visiting SE PDX Little Free Libraries

Another in an occasional series of Little Free Libraries in Southeast Portland.Cartlandia LFL.jpg

I went bike riding the other day and stopped at Cartlandia for lunch. Of course, no matter how many times you go, you have to walk through the whole place and see what’s new, what’s different, what moves you today. Pancake Underground is in a different spot, but they’re still hosting a Free Library. From their website: “We took the original oven from the 1957 Jewel trailer that became our food cart, for instance, and made it into a free library for the community.”

Of course, I hadn’t thought to bring any books with me to drop off, and my bike basket was full of stuff already for the rest of the trip. I’ll have to make another lunch date out there!

Little Free Cup Library

Portlanders who frequent Nossa Familia Coffee—a Portland-based roastery with three local cafes and one in Los Angeles—should dust off their thermoses.

The local chain announced today that it will be the first Portland coffee shop to add a 25-cent extra charge to orders served in disposable to-go cups. The extra fee will be implemented starting Earth Day, April 22.

Karen Lickteig, the company’s marketing and sustainability director, says the charge is an effort to reduce waste.

“Every year, 50 million cups are thrown away in Portland alone,” Lickteig says. “The charge on cups is about sending a message that this item is wasteful.”

The company also plans to start building free cup libraries at its cafes, where customers can donate mugs for people to use when they forget a reusable cup. People who bring in their own mugs will be given a 25 cent discount.

little cup library.png


Augusto Carneiro, Nossa’s founder, says he was nervous that instating the charge would turn customers away but “knew it was the right thing to do.”


“Our goal isn’t to shame people or make them feel bad about paying the charge,” Carneiro says in a statement. “The real goal here is to help people think more consciously about their decisions, and offer a little nudge to help them make a better one for the planet and our community by using a reusable cup over one that becomes trash.”

Reading to Your Toddler? Print Books are Better Than Digital Ones

from The New York Times


Reading to Your Toddler? Print Books Are Better Than Digital Ones

“The tablet itself made it harder for parents and children to engage in the rich back-and-forth turn-taking that was happening in print books,” a researcher said.

CreditGetty Images
CreditCreditGetty Images

As a supporter of reading with children and a fan of traditional print books, I cannot say I am entirely surprised by the results of new research suggesting that print books are the best way to go when reading with young children.

Reading books is one of the great and ongoing pleasures of my life, and although I read all kinds of things on screens, I cling to the print book, the paper book, or what we all secretly call “the book-book.”

I am willing to travel with a heavy bag full of books in order to enjoy the pleasure of turning paper pages on the airplane, and watching my bookmark (yes, of course, I have a bookmark fetish) move further and further through the book on the hotel night table. But when it comes to books for young children, there’s a certain research imperative to figure out the role that screens can or should or might play in those first exposures to the written word.

Reading is my cause, and has been for years. I am the national medical director of Reach Out and Read, a nonprofit that supports pediatricians in counseling parents and children to read together and providing books at checkups.

Written language will be only more important in our children’s lives as the world becomes more and more networked, in the largest written-word-based community that has ever existed. Our children will grow up to depend on their facility with reading and writing in their jobs, their personal relationships, their ability to access information and news, and their participation in civic discourse at every level. How can we help them into the world of written language, in all its many modern manifestations?

In study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, researchers at the University of Michigan asked 37 parents to read similar stories to their 2- to 3-year-olds in three different formats (the order was varied for the different families): a print book, a basic electronic book (no bells or whistles) on a tablet, and an enhanced electronic book with animation and/or sound effects (tap a sea gull or a dog and hear the sounds they make). The interactions were videotaped and coded, looking at the number and kinds of verbalizations by parents and by children, at the amount of collaborative reading that went on, and at the general emotional tenor of the interaction.

Reading print books together generated more verbalizations about the story from parents and from toddlers, more back and forth “dialogic” collaboration. (“What’s happening here?” “Remember when you went to the beach with Dad?”)

Dr. Tiffany Munzer, a fellow in developmental behavioral pediatrics at the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, who was the first author on the study, said the researchers had wanted to study toddlers in particular because of a concern that the toddlers might be particularly susceptible to distraction by electronic enhancements. That was why the enhanced books were compared to print books but also to nonenhanced electronic books.

“They were susceptible,” Dr. Munzer said, “but the basic electronic book without the enhancements was also distracting to toddlers, and they had less engagement with their parents than with print books.”

So while earlier research had suggested that the enhancements were problematic for young children, the results of this study suggested that even a nonenhanced story on the tablet screen seemed less likely to generate that parent-child dialogue. “The tablet itself made it harder for parents and children to engage in the rich back-and-forth turn-taking that was happening in print books,” Dr. Munzer said.

The researchers can only speculate about why; it may be because of the patterns we are all accustomed to in using our devices. Perhaps “the tablet is designed to be more of a personal device, perhaps parents and children use it independently at home,” Dr. Munzer said. There were also some struggles over who got to control the tablet, and more “negative format-related comments,” like “Don’t touch that button.”

And a print book, with a young child, may be a better piece of technology, if the goal is dialogue and conversational turn-taking. “A print book is just so good at eliciting these interactions,” Dr. Munzer said. “You’re comparing a tablet with the gold standard.”

[Read more in our guide: How to Raise a Reader]

I was one of the co-authors of a commentary accompanying the study, which acknowledged the many potential benefits of electronic books for children, but argued for continuing to rely on print books for the very young, including in programs that encourage parent-child reading.

My colleague, Dr. Suzy Tomopoulos, assistant professor in the department of pediatrics at N.Y.U. School of Medicine, who was the lead author on the commentary, said that whatever the medium, “parents need to read together with their child, use what they’re reading, and expand on the text.” With younger children, she said, there’s evidence that they get distracted with e-books, and there’s a lot of technology being actively marketed to parents nowadays. “You don’t need a lot of bells and whistles to support your child’s development,” she said. “Engaging the child and talking to the child does a wonderful job of supporting early child development.”

Reach Out and Read has a partnership with Scholastic, which this week released the seventh edition of its Kids & Family Reading Report, a national survey of school-age children and parents. It found that though 58 percent of the kids surveyed said they love or like reading books for fun, there has been an incremental decrease in reading frequency among the children surveyed since 2010.

And as children reach the age when they are expected to have fully mastered reading, they seem to be reading less for fun. In what the report called a “decline by 9,” the percentage of kids who report reading books for fun five to seven days a week dropped to 35 percent of 9-year-olds from 57 percent of 8-year-olds.

Lauren Tarshis, senior vice president at Scholastic and a contributor to the report, pointed to the focus on third grade as the pivotal year when children are expected to achieve full fluency as readers.

The worry is that is that the pressure — and the testing — at that stage may contribute to the perception that reading is no longer so much fun.

“I keep saying to my colleagues, it made me feel sorrowful,” Ms. Tarshis said. “If you have reading in your life as something you see as a way of transporting you, opening doors, it’s just a wonderful, wonderful thing.”

The report also highlighted the importance of “reading role models,” pointing out that the children who are frequent readers have people in their lives who enjoy reading, and parents who read frequently. This is hardly a surprise, though again, in the digital era, it might raise the question of just how our children can tell what it is that we are doing on our devices.

(When my own children were young, and I had just started to investigate the literature on reading, I was delighted to discover that “sustained silent reading” was an important pedagogical technique in elementary schools. I promptly invented another important technique, which I termed “witnessed sustained silent reading,” which I felt changed my parenting approach from “don’t bother me now, I’m reading,” to something far more laudable.)

But clearly parents play an important role. The book that stimulates the dialogue between parent and toddler is also the child’s introduction to the pleasures of written language and stories. The pleasure that a parent takes in reading helps shape a growing child’s attitude. And the message to parents should not be that they’re doing it wrong (we all know we’re doing things wrong, just as we all know that we’re doing our best), but that parents really matter.

“Parents today work harder than ever,” Dr. Munzer said. “Our goal is to help families reflect on activities they engage in that spark connections.”