It started out as a family visit to their maid's home town in the Philippines. Dr Xu Cunzhi and his family wanted to contribute a Christmas gift which would leave a more lasting impact. In December 2010, they set up a library in an annexe of 54-year-old Bernardina Dauz's home, for the local community in Diadi in Nueva Vizcaya province.
Three years on, Dr Xu, 24, has registered Reads for Kids as a society in Singapore, and it has also set up two other libraries in the Philippines. The non-profit organisation, which has about 20 members, is working with a school in China's Xi'an to expand its reach to the country. For each English book donated to the city-based school, the school will donate a Chinese book to outlying villages.
English books in the city are very expensive, while people living in rural areas have very few books at all, Dr Xu explained. He and his team gave an update of the group's work last week at an informal gathering to thank donors for their support.
Through word of mouth, around 1,300 books were donated to the first library - named Nardy's Library after the local nickname of the maid, who has worked for the family since 1989. "Our helper has worked for us for so many years," said Dr Xu. "We wanted to do something to pay it forward."
Mrs Dauz said: "English is the second language in the Philippines and is very important. But there are very few English books in the schools." Inspired by the popularity of the first library, Reads for Kids set up a second library last year and a third in June.
The latest, built in a disused room in an elementary school in Buliwao town, has about 1,200 books and is the largest of the three. About $1,500 was spent on shipping costs and bookshelves. All the libraries have books ranging from pre-school to adult fiction, and non-fiction.
While they focus on catering for school-going children in the villages, they are for "the whole community", said Dr Xu. To date, the team has enough books to fill two rooms, but is hoping to find more funding support. Currently, half the money comes from the team's own pockets. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/reads4kids
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