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Planting stories: Little Library

It was started to encourage the neighbourhood kids to read. Now, these little free libraries are a hit among children all over Mizoram

In November 2019, when Aizawl-based Lalhruaitluanga Chawngte created a bookshelf attached to the roadside compound wall of his home, he was nervous. Yet he went ahead with the Little Library because he wanted to inculcate the habit of readingamong children. The library began with 35 books that he owned, mostly for light reading.

Lalhruaitluanga Chawngte started the concept of Little Library in Mizoram | Photo Credit: arranged

While there had been similar mini libraries outside the Mizoram State Library, Chawngte — a journalist with The Mizoram Post — wanted to make them easily accessible, especially to children in his locality. With no librarians, membership fee, or time limits on borrowing, the free library includes Mizo and English language books.

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Chawngte says he was inspired to set up the Little Library after he read about such libraries in the US and Europe. Now, two years later, the Little Library has grown manifold in Aizawl, and spread to nearly 20 villages in Mizoram. The library now has more than 1,000 books, all sourced through contributions from friends and well-wishers.

Chawngte is delighted: “As a citizen, I wanted to contribute to society and as a writer of three books (in the Mizo language) I could think of no better way to re-introduce the habit of book reading. Children have lost touch with the beauty of reading books for leisure. When I started the library, a lot of curious people simply looked at it and walked past. However, within a day I was delighted to see school children stopping by to check out the books on the shelf.”

Chawngte’s idea also paid off well as several individuals and organisations borrowed the concept and started similar little libraries in their own neighbourhoods and villages. “It gives me joy when people call or write to me seeking my approval to replicate the idea. I believe that good multiplies when shared. So, I don’t stop anyone who wants to replicate it as long as it helps develop the habit of reading books.”

With Northeast India prone to heavy rainfall, what happens to the books during the monsoon? Chawngte assures that though the libraries are made with concrete and are covered, they still don’t take a chance. “On days with extreme weather, the books are brought indoors.”

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