A library that brings books by sailboats

More than 10 per cent of West Sulawesi's adult population cannot read, while in many villages the only book available is a solitary copy of the Quran.

The toothless steersman positioned the rudder. A second sailor, balancing barefoot on an outrigger, coaxed an elderly engine into life.

A third poled the boat away from the trash-strewn beach. In West Sulawesi, Indonesia, a ground-breaking mobile library was on its way.

The Perahu Pustaka (Book Boat) is sorely needed. In a recent study of 61 nations for which data was available, Indonesia ranked second worst for literacy - only Botswana scored lower.

More than 10 per cent of the West Sulawesi's adult population cannot read, while in many villages, the only book available is a solitary copy of the Quran.

So in 2015, local news journalist Muhammad Ridwan Alimuddin decided to combine his twin passions for books and boats by setting up a mobile library on a baqgo, a small traditional sailboat.

His aim? To bring fun, colourful children's books to remote fishermen's villages and tiny islands in the region where literacy is low and reading for pleasure virtually non-existent.

He preaches the joy of reading.

"As soon as the boat was built, I sent an email to my boss resigning," he said.

Not that the boat is the limit of Alimuddin's library ambitions. A physical library in his home village of Pambusuang on the West Sulawesi coast contains thousands of volumes, drawing students from local high schools and even university, as well as hordes of village children.

He has a motorbike and rickshaw for transporting books overland, as well as an ATV, which he uses to reach isolated mountain villages, some only accessible by crossing rivers on a bamboo raft.

But it's the boat library that's closest to Alimuddin's heart.

Despite never finishing university, he has written 10 books on maritime culture and helped sail a small traditional pakur craft from Sulawesi to Okinawa in Japan.

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