Henry David Thoreau said, “Books are the treasured wealth of the world”. They are one of the great inventions by man. Books offer information, experience and knowledge. They entertain and offer a great escape. They teach us about anything and everything in our universe and beyond. Reading books helps develop the mind, communication skills, creativity and imagination. However, in India and many other parts of the world reading is a luxury that not everyone can enjoy. The new concept of free mini roadside libraries can change life of many underprivileged people. In places where intricate concrete libraries do not exist, these small and free roadside libraries have brought books closer to people.

In Mizoram’s capital Aizawal there are a couple of free mini roadside libraries. Thirty year old, Ngurang Meena set up Arunachal Pradesh’s first such roadside library in Nirjuli, a town in Papum Pare district. She was inspired by the Mizoram’s free mini roadside libraries. Meena set up this roadside library by her own efforts last year in August. The library has around 70 – 80 books. In these roadside libraries, pedestrians can donate their own books, take some to read or read them standing on the footpath. The library consists of many fiction, non-fictions and even academic books.

Free Mini roadside libraries
Photo courtesy: Parveen Kaswan, IFS (Twitter)

When children fail to develop healthy reading habits they might have poor writing skills during their formative years. The best way to improve writing skills is by reading more. These roadside libraries encourage reading. As they are free and on the roadside they are easily accessible to everyone. Several underprivileged children go to public school where the quality of education they receive can be inadequate. In most public schools in the country, teachers are scarce, absent or uninterested in students, the syllabus can be confusing and reading outside school is rarely encouraged.

There are not many number of public libraries and commercial bookstores sell books at high cost. It is almost impossible for children from lower income families to find the means to read. The roadside libraries are a great way to introduce these children to books and encourage them to read. These libraries provide children a space to think, question and evolve. The library books from roadside libraries can offer them an escape from reality. They will be informed about other people, countries, cultures and customs. It will nourish their imaginations and expand their worlds. They can help children create and understand emotional bonds.

Ngurang-Meena-free-library
Ngurang Meena free library

Children will be able to open up, become more interactive and connect with people, as books show the inner workings of multiple perspectives and tell us that there is more than one way to view the world. Children will be inspired to think, ask questions and have original thoughts. It will help them inculcate morals and ethical values. Books will help them reflect on right and wrong, good and evil. Children will learn to empathize and become compassionate. As more children visit small roadside libraries, it will create a common reading experience amongst them.

It will help create peer bonds within the children and provide the opportunity to share cultural experiences. Compared to other means of entertainment, these books are free for everyone. Books are great companions and children will never be lonely when they have a book to read. Most importantly, these free mini roadside libraries will inspire children to dream and give them the tools to achieve those dreams. The initiative of setting up small roadside libraries will deeply impact the lives of children and encourage them to not just read but also to write and create their own stories. If other states in our country adopt the idea of small and free roadside libraries then it will truly help change the lives of many underprivileged kids.

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