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