Passing on a love for reading

Nook of knowledge: Rafeah placing some books in the Book Heaven Street Library at Muara Tuang Park. — ZULAZHAR SHEBLEE/The Star

KOTA SAMARAHAN: Spurred by her love of reading, Rafeah Wahi has set up a street library near her home to provide free reading materials for the local community.

The “Book Heaven Street Library”, housed in a box with a door on wooden posts along a pavement at Muara Tuang Park here, contains books which anyone can borrow to read for free.

Rafeah, 41, started the project last month after coming across the free little library concept on the Internet some time ago.

“I found out that people across the world actually have a systematic network of free small libraries or street libraries.

“I asked my brother to build the library three years ago, but I was not able to focus on the project until July this year.

“That was when my family and I started to work seriously on this project. They helped to put up the mini library at a street corner near our house.

“It takes up a small space and I feel it is reasonably safe. It is next to a small lane used by parents to pick up their children from a school nearby, so I think it’s a good location for them to drop by and borrow books, ” Rafeah added.

The Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) lecturer said she started the street library with about 20 books from her own collection and spread the word on social media.

In the first week, it seemed that the number of books in the library did not change, but by the second week about half the books had been taken, she said.

“We’ve seen children coming to visit the library with their parents. Overall, it has received a good response so far.

“I restock the books when the numbers are low and change the titles every week so that there is more variety, ” she said.

Rafeah added that friends and the public had also started donating books for the library.

Describing it as a self-service community library, Rafeah said people could take the books home and return them later after reading them.

“However, if they cannot return the books for some reason, we hope they will pass it on to someone else to read, ” she said.

Rafeah hoped that the initiative would cultivate the reading habit among the local community, besides providing books for those who love to read.

“I have always loved reading and I know what it’s like not to have any books to read. I remember my siblings and I saving up money when we were children to buy books which we would share with one another.

“Perhaps there are people in the community who want to read but don’t have books, ” she said.

Rafeah said she would also like to see a nationwide network of free street libraries in Malaysia to help poor communities break the poverty cycle through education.

“I hope that through free and easy access to reading, our underprivileged children and teenagers can find a brighter future for themselves and their families, ” she added.

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