Ama­zon helps to spread the love of read­ing

Com­pany in push to aid poor chil­dren’s lit­er­acy with do­na­tions of book de­vice in prov­inces

China Daily (USA) - - BUSINESS - By YANG YANG yangyangs@chi­

As a child grow­ing up in a poor ru­ral area in Jiangsu prov­ince, Chi­nese writer Xu Zechen had noth­ing to read but a mag­a­zine tar­geted at ma­ture read­ers and a semi­monthly on pol­i­tics, both sub­scribed by his grand­fa­ther.

About 30 years later, how­ever, chil­dren in many poor ar­eas of China still have no ac­cess to books that could change their lives.

Wang Ziru, a sixth-grade stu­dent from a board­ing school in Guyuan County of Zhangji­akou, is cur­rently read­ing a lo­cal Chi­nese cartoon series Crazy Guibao! on a Kin­dle Paper­white. It is the first time the 13-year-old has read us­ing a Kin­dle.

In 2022 the city of Zhangji­akou in He­bei prov­ince is go­ing to host the Win­ter Olympic Games, but Wang’s 6,000-year-old home­town of Guyuan is among the most poverty-rid­den coun­ties in China, where a lot of chil­dren were left be­hind af­ter their par­ents went to the big cities to find work.

While chil­dren in China’s ur­ban ar­eas are read­ing an in­creas­ing num­ber and range of im­ported books, Wang and her class­mates rarely see any­thing other than text­books, a sit­u­a­tion lead­ing to a widen­ing ru­ral-ur­ban ed­u­ca­tion gap.

That is why Ama­zon China, work­ing with China Foun­da­tion for Poverty Al­le­vi­a­tion, started the “Book Path” pro­gram in 2015, de­cid­ing to do­nate Kin­dle de­vices and e-books

I will never for­get the ex­cite­ment in chil­dren’s eyes when they saw their words on a Kin­dle.” Elaine Chang, vice-pres­i­dent of Ama­zon Global and pres­i­dent of Ama­zon China

to the pri­mary and mid­dle schools in the coun­try’s poor­est ar­eas.

Last year, the pro­gram helped 5,000 chil­dren in 10 pri­mary and mid­dle schools in Yun­nan, Guizhou, Sichuan, He­nan, He­bei and Gansu prov­inces to read on a Kin­dle. Each Kin­dle was loaded with 500 clas­sic books from home and abroad.

Wang’s school is among the first that re­ceived the do­na­tion in Jan­uary and Fe­bru­ary. The girl, a big fan of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, says she is happy to read more fairy tales and nov­els than she ever saw be­fore.

“I find it very con­ve­nient to carry it and to turn the pages. There are so many books in such a thin de­vice, so there’s no need to carry the heavy printed books, one by one,” she said.

But at Wang’s school, the stu­dents be­tween the third and ninth-grades share less than 20 Kin­dle de­vices, which lim­ited the read­ing time for a class to only one day. The next day the Kin­dle is passed on to an­other class.

“So the same class will have to wait a long time to bor­row the de­vices an­other day,” said Xu Lina, a teacher at the board­ing school.

Ac­tion has been taken to solve the prob­lem. This year, joined by other part­ners such as video-stream­ing sites Youku and iQiyi, the Book Path pro­gram has ex­panded the num­ber of do­nated Kin­dle de­vices to 50 units for each of the 22 newly sup­ported schools in Yun­nan and Sichuan prov­inces. An­other 9,000 chil­dren will ben­e­fit from the pro­gram.

“Be­sides clas­sics such as po­ems from the Tang (618-907) and Song (960-1279) dy­nas­ties and Hans Chris­tian An­der­sen’s fairy tales, this year we chose some pop­u­lar chil­dren’s lit­er­a­ture cur­rently read by kids in the cities, such as Cao Wenx­uan’s books,” said Elaine Chang, vice-pres­i­dent of Ama­zon Global and pres­i­dent of Ama­zon China, at the launch cer­e­mony of the Book Path pro­gram ear­lier this year.

In April, Cao won the world’s top chil­dren lit­er­a­ture ac­co­lade, the Hans Chris­tian An­der­sen Award.

There are also some English es­says and sto­ries that chil­dren can read ev­ery day, Chang said.

Apart from the do­na­tions, the Book Path pro­gram en­cour­ages chil­dren from the tar­geted schools to write. The best con­tri­bu­tions will be picked to be in books that can be read on Kin­dle. Last year, pro­ceeds from the sales of the books went to char­ity.

In May, Chang vis­ited one of the schools they sup­port in He­nan prov­ince.

“I will never for­get the ex­cite­ment in chil­dren’s eyes when they saw their words on a Kin­dle,” she said.

This year the pro­ceeds from the book sales will be given to the chil­dren writ­ers.

“Maybe the chil­dren will re­ceive their first pay­ment from writ­ing in their lives. Per­haps it will kin­dle their pas­sion for read­ing and writ­ing,” Chang said.

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