“America!” some students shout out as an answer when asked which country is far away from their home. “We know from the maps in the library.” This answer has suddenly made me melt, since it is just like books are windows for these children. “I see Panda like to eat bamboo in the book,” was another answer from a child, when asked whether they see any animal in a book, which they’ve never ever see before.
Sungonlegowo Primary School is in the countryside area in Surabaya, Indonesia. One year ago, they got their newly decorated library, supported by the IKEA Foundation together with Room to Read and implementing partner ProVisi Education.
Hundreds of new books with different levels are clearly shown on the tidy bookshelf for students in this school to read during their break and borrow to take back to home. They have reading activities every week. One library almost becomes the powerful connection linked in the hearts of these students from grade 1 to grade 6.
These two boys, who are in grade 4 of this school, are the library volunteers. They like the books so much that they use their spare time to volunteer to do some jobs in the library, such as cleaning the floor and making the bookshelf tidy. Sometimes they even explain questions for the junior grade students, since volunteer teachers are not always in the library.
One of the boys answers my question: “Who has had some dreams in the evening after reading your favourite book?” After some seconds of silence, he said: “I do have dreams of being in the place described by this book.” He pointed out a book with many pictures about earth, space and astronauts. He also added that he wants to be an astronaut when he grows up. I realized this book had opened a wider window in his heart.
Due to most of the parents being farmers, these children have very few opportunities to go outside of their home town to see something new. Even the television has no cartoon programmes, so now they can only rely on these books in the new library, with many illustrated pictures, that are suitable for their reading based on Room to Read’s ideal book list.
When we were going to leave the school, I was amazed that although these students do not have lessons in the afternoon, they are waiting for us and just saying goodbye to us. And they are all willing to have photos with us because this is the first time they see Chinese people come to their home town. We are the people from the country which has pandas and bamboo. A window opened several months ago in their hearts—and now they have met some people related to the story they read!