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Blue bus of Kabul brings joys of reading to Afghan children

  • Afghanistan-Books-on-Wheels

    Freshta Karim, 25, right, owner of a bus library, helps children to read books inside a bus library in Kabul on March 10.

    RAHMAT GUL / AP

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KABUL, Afghanistan — The children of Kabul love the blue bus — they rush toward it every time it pulls into their street, eager to come onboard, their young eyes brimming with excitement.

But it’s no ordinary bus. Its name is Charmaghz, the Dari word for Walnut, and it’s a library on wheels — the first such enterprise in Afghanistan’s war-battered capital.

Inside the bus are rows of neatly stacked books for children, hundreds of them in both Dari and Pashto, the two main languages in Afghanistan. And small tables and stools for the kids to sit on as they discover the joys of reading.

From sunrise to sunset, the bus drives around Kabul’s neighborhoods, stopping in each place for a couple of hours at a time.

Inside the bus are rows of neatly stacked books for children, hundreds of them in both Dari and Pashto, the two main languages in Afghanistan. And small tables and stools for the kids to sit on as they discover the joys of reading.

From sunrise to sunset, the bus drives around Kabul’s neighborhoods, stopping in each place for a couple of hours at a time.

Inside the bus are rows of neatly stacked books for children, hundreds of them in both Dari and Pashto, the two main languages in Afghanistan. And small tables and stools for the kids to sit on as they discover the joys of reading.

From sunrise to sunset, the bus drives around Kabul’s neighborhoods, stopping in each place for a couple of hours at a time.

On a recent day in her western Kabul neighborhood of Kart-e-Char, 11-year-old Marwa could hardly wait for the bus to turn the corner of the road so she could see it, run and jump in, and start reading.

“The first day I came on the bus, I was so happy that I didn’t want to leave and go home,” Marwa said, smiling.

She wants to know more about everything, her homeland and the world, she says.

Karim and her team believe it’s important for the children to choose the books that appeal to them freely and keep reading. It’s the best way to develop critical thinking, she says — and hopefully also a step toward combatting Afghanistan’s 62 percent illiteracy rate.

The blue bus, decorated with colorful paintings to appeal to the young ones, was provided by the transportation ministry. All the books have been donated by different organizations or individuals. The donations also pay for the fuel that keeps the wheels turning day-to-day.

University student Siyam Barakati, 21, is one of the five-member team on the bus. He is the story-teller and his job is to read to the smaller children who cannot yet read.

“It is really enjoyable for me to be with kids, for a short time I forget everything else,” he said. “It’s a good feeling.”

For 10-year-old Sameer, books are his new friends — and a source of knowledge to pass on.

“I read a book here, and learn something from it,” he said. “Then I go home and tell the story to my sisters, and I get to learn more.”



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