On October 31, Judith’s Reading Room announced the opening of its first library in mainland China to serve schools in a remote and impoverished region of Yunnan Province. The organization was contacted by Frances Deram, an American teacher affiliated with the non-profit Teach for China. Her compelling plea to send children’s books in English to help close the gap of education inequality in China resonated with the organization, whose mission is to enrich lives by providing books to those who do not have access to them.
Ms. Deram said, “the majority of our students do not have money to buy new clothes, much less books outside of the required curriculum. For the first time, students will be able to look beyond their English textbook and see the world from another country’s perspective.” Teach for China is a non-profit organization that recruits and trains the most talented and dedicated young leaders from China and the USA to place Fellows in low-income schools as full-time educators for two years.
Judith’s Reading Room has opened 58 libraries in three years containing 62,687 books worth nearly $640,000. In addition to China, the organization has opened libraries in 10 countries outside the United States –Afghanistan, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Albania, Costa Rica, Cambodia, Japan and Namibia.
The organization depends heavily on gently-read book donations from members of the local community. Recently four teenagers conducted book drives which resulted in the collection of nearly 4,000 books. Jared Fantasia, a junior at Northampton Area High School, whose book drive brought in 2,871 books, requested that all of his children’s books be shipped to schools in China.
Books provided by Judith’s Reading Room to Teach for China, will be used for two main purposes: free reading for outside the classroom and supplemental texts to be used in class, according to Ms. Deram. She added, “my goal is to have a lasting English impact at our school.”