She reads to them everyday and encourages them to take books home.
Literacy is often not thought about in wealthier nations because the rate of people that remain illiterate is dwindling, but it is rampant in other countries with a poor education system and lack of resources. One such place is India, where the percentage of people that can’t read is nearly double that in the U.S.
Muskaan Arihar, a 9-year-old living in Bhopal, India, recognized this and decided that she couldn’t sit idly by while her peers suffered through school and life. She opened a library right outside her home that is open to all and called Bal Pustakalaya, which means “Children’s Library.” The name is fitting because it is for children and run by children, including herself.
She opens her library after school everyday and invites a few dozen children to listen to her read aloud. Her library collection has several hundred books, from which she chooses to share with her fellow listeners. Though some children often get distracted, it’s important that they just show up and be advocates for their own education. Muskaan said,
“They do make noise but they don’t fight. I tell them to read and promise them that I’ll make them play later.”
Fortunately, she has many people that are in her corner and very supportive. One organization called Room to Read has donated over 50 books to her library and are dedicated to partnering with local writers and publishers to translate books into an area’s local language. Muskaan also encourages her peers to check out books from her library so that they can learn from home.
Muskaan is lucky enough to have a family that supports her goals and education. Many countries in her area of the globe are less than thrilled about girls and women being educated, but Muskaan’s own father doesn’t agree with this philosophy.
“Muskaan can study as much as she wants. If a girl gets educated it’s very good because when she grows up she plays a big role in making and sustaining a family,” he told Room to Read.
Her library has also inspired others to start their own libraries, especially because Muskaan is so young. Girls that are a few years older see that if Muskaan can do it by the age of 9, that they can get started on their journey in aiding their peers in furthering their education.
Libraries are often taken for granted, but in countries that don’t have that same luxury, even children are trying to transform their education system to make their world a better place.
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