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‘Wisdom on Wheels’: India’s Mobile Library

Home > Learn More > Stories & News > ‘Wisdom on Wheels’: India’s Mobile Library
By Rashmi Kulkarni, ChildFund India
Posted on 9/29/2016
children watching mobile library video

Children in Karnataka gather outside the mobile library to watch an animated show.

Many of us grew up with story books as an integral part of our childhoods. We met fairies, mermaids, gods, talking animals and even children like us. Often, we learned how to tell right from wrong through stories.

As we got older, we found comic books, magazines and novels, all of which helped us build our knowledge and language skills.

But many children in India don’t have access to many reading materials other than textbooks in school. Their parents don’t read to them at night, and they may never get to fall in love with reading the way they should.

ChildFund India is working to change this situation through our Books, my Friends program. It started at the beginning of 2015 with the distribution of 40,000 bags full of books meant to be read for fun. Then, addressing the lack of electricity in many communities, we gave children solar lamps that help them read after dark. The lamps also make life easier for parents, who cook and do other chores by the light. We’ve also begun helping schools build new libraries.

The latest phase of Books, my Friends introduces a mobile library, helping our literacy programs reach even more children. The first library — powered by solar energy — went to communities in the state of Karnataka earlier this year.

Children are visibly delighted when the mobile library enters their school campuses. It carries books of different native dialects (as well as English) and also has a TV screen, so children can watch animated movies and educational videos. Even adults in the communities join in, and the events lead to discussions about children’s rights, education and safety. A librarian conducts reading sessions with the children’s teachers.

boy reading book in mobile library

A boy reads inside the mobile library, the latest part of ChildFund India’s Books, my Friends program.

“I came to know the geography, the reasons behind changes in the atmosphere through a video shown in the mobile library,” says Yamanur, a ninth-grader. “The books I have read have taught me many important lessons of life. Our parents are very happy and proud to see us grow like this.”

Most of the schools in these areas don’t have libraries, so the mobile library may be the first opportunity children have had to read books purely for fun, or their first exposure to books in their home language.

In Karnataka, most people speak Kannada, so the library has books in that language. This helps children comprehend the stories and feel comfortable reading. According to a primary school headmaster, “We encourage the children to share the moral of the story with everyone. This mobile library is like wisdom on wheels.”

One video about educating children who live in forest tribes has struck a chord with students, says a village school teacher. “It was an inspiration to all the children who don’t take their studies seriously for various reasons,” she says. “They also became aware of their rights. Children said that the books and videos have taught them some important moral values and helped them to increase their knowledge.”

They’ve learned, too, that a love of reading can last into adulthood.

“We have realized that friends come and go in life, but books remain with us till the end,” says Vijayalaxmi, an eighth-grader. “Books are our real friends that guide us to lead a good life — and can change our life.”