Free books en­lighten Xin­jiang minds

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - By MAOWEIHUA in Urumqi maoweihua@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Six­teen book­stores in the Xin­jiang Uygur au­ton­o­mous re­gion are do­nat­ing books to the poor as part of an on­go­ing charity drive.

In­spired by a pop­u­lar charity ac­tiv­ity in Western coun­tries where cafe cus­tomers buy an ex­tra cup of cof­fee for a per­son un­able to pay, the book-do­nat­ing ac­tiv­ity — called “Book On The Wall” — in­vites cus­tomers to buy ex­tra books and then post the ti­tles and prices on the wall in­stead of tak­ing them home. The books are of­fered free of charge to peo­ple who don’t have the means to pay.

Yalkun Os­man, one of the founders of the ac­tiv­ity, said, “We hope to help pover­tys­tricken peo­ple who like to read but have no money for books.”

Of the 16 book­stores par­tic­i­pat­ing in the ac­tiv­ity, two are in Urumqi, the re­gional cap­i­tal — Nawayi Book­store and Le­tao Book­store. They took part in July.

Li Duan, 60, owner of Le­tao Book­store, said she de­cided to join the ef­fort after she learned about it from Yalkun Os­man and found that there were many poor peo­ple who needed books.

“Be­fore the ac­tiv­ity, I used to see some poor chil­dren who liked very much to read books but they had no money to buy any,” Li said. “I of­ten let them read books in my store. That ex­pe­ri­ence made me want to par­tic­i­pate,” said Li, who is from He­nan prov­ince but has lived in Urumqi for more than 10 years.

On­the wall ofN­awayi Book­store, more than 20 ti­tles do­nated by cus­tomers waited to be claimed.

Guzal­nur, the owner, said she finds the charity ac­tiv­ity in­spir­ing — so much so that she has pro­vided other free books that were not listed on the wall but were needed to teach read­ing.

To sup­port the ac­tiv­ity, the two book­stores gave 15 to 60 per­cent dis­counts to the book donors.

“This book­store was opened by my son when he was a col­lege stu­dent to earn money for his tu­ition, and he got help from oth­ers when he ran the store. Now he had grad­u­ated, and I took part in the charity to help oth­ers in re­turn,” Li said.

Mah­mut­jan, who re­cently picked up a Uygur-Han bilin­gual chil­dren’s book free for his 10-year-old son, said he was grate­ful for the ac­tiv­ity, which gives peo­ple like him a chance to get books for their knowl­edge-thirsty chil­dren.

Ac­cord­ing to Yalkun Os­man, some peo­ple didn’t no­tice the ac­tiv­ity, pos­si­bly be­cause they didn’t fully un­der­stand the idea, or be­cause of the fast de­vel­op­ment of the in­ter­net, which has changed read­ing habits.

“But the most im­por­tant fac­tor is that cu­rios­ity and de­sire for knowl­edge has de­creased, so some peo­ple were not will­ing to spend money for books. They were more will­ing to buy lux­ury goods. They pay no at­ten­tion to their minds or to the train­ing of their chil­dren,” Yalkun Os­man said, adding that the Book On The­Wall project was not only a charity ac­tiv­ity but also a kind of cul­tural out­reach that could help re­al­ize a small dream for poor peo­ple who yearn to read. Ma Lie con­trib­uted to this story.

MAO WEI­HUA / CHINA DAILY

Le­tao Book­store owner Li Duan (right) in­tro­duces the idea of do­nat­ing books to a cus­tomer in Urumqi.

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