An article titled ‘India is a reading nation, but not enough’ by The New Indian Express explains how despite having a 75 percent literacy rate amongst the youth, only 25 percent claimed to be regular readers.
Understanding the need to inculcate reading habits among Indians, 34-year-old Akshay Kumar Rautray and 32-year-old Satabdi Mishra have set out on a mission. On December 15, 2015, they loaded a truck with over four thousand books, and set out to travel across 20 states in 90 days as a part of their campaign ‘Read More, India’.
“We started this journey to encourage reading amongst people. As we felt that a lot of people in small cities and villages don’t have access to books and any other reading material,” said Satabdi Mishra.
Their journey began in Odisha and they travelled over 10,000 km before reaching Indore in a van that had been customised to double up as a mini library. During the trip, the duo conducted small book fairs at various schools, colleges, universities and other public places and parked their vehicle at various spots around the city so that people could browse through their collection. People could read the books and even buy them at discounted rates.
“We would often feel that people are losing interest in books these days. Our entire effort was to improve this count and ratio,” said Akshay Rautray, who worked at a publishing house before quitting his job to start with this campaign.
From fairytales to best sellers, the mobile library has something for everyone. The entire campaign is being financed by three publishing houses: HarperCollins India, Pan Macmillan India and Parragon Publishers.
“Good books should reach out to the various corners of the country. So, we thought of reaching out to the grassroots level and promoting reading habits among the people, especially the young folks,” said Rautray.
This is not the first attempt by the duo to spark an interest towards reading amongst villagers. Last year, they had launched the Walking Book Fair to promote reading, movies and photography amongst the people in cities and remote villages of the state.
We are a nation that has borne several literary geniuses, and yet the number of people that read their works is negligible. While on one end there is a need to improve literacy levels, there must also be efforts undertaken by the government to set up bookshops and an effective distribution method, especially in rural areas.
Words: Krupa Joseph