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Zhuzhu and Her Village Library

China Today,October 08, 2017 Adjust font size:

Zhuzhu ignored these objections. The children in support of her established a group to help find a suitable venue and deal with procurement and decorating. They also drew up some regulations for the library’s operation and invited their friends there. Gradually, more and more children started to show up.

Children have different classes at the library.

The library can accommodate around 100 children, some of whom come to do their homework after school or to read in the evenings. At weekends, there are story-telling classes, painting classes, and film viewing events. As the library program expanded, some non-profit organizations dedicated to rural education began to contact Zhuzhu and hold activities in the library. Zhuzhu was very popular, and there were always friends who came to visit her from far and wide. Every time they visited she would organize a salon for her friends to share their different experiences of the outside world with local parents and children.

“As well as reading and doing their homework, I also hope that they could come to me when they are wronged by their parents at home and look for a quiet place to calm down,” Zhuzhu explained. “If they want to sit silently, we won’t disturb them, but if they want to chat with me, then I’d be very happy. This is what I want to provide them with: a free space.”

A Mothers’ Club

As more and more kids started coming to the library, the whole village underwent some subtle changes.

One day, a mother came into the library and asked Zhuzhu shyly, “Are you free? I would like to talk to you about my kid. For some reason she is disobedient and won’t respond to me, whatever I say.” She chatted with Zhuzhu for an hour and got some helpful suggestions.

Gradually, more and more mothers came to chat with Zhuzhu. At their suggestion, Zhuzhu began to run a “mothers’ club.” Some of the women managed their own shops during the day and had nothing to do at night apart from watching TV or playing cards. Some worked on construction sites all day and were very tired after work. All of them, however, were interested in this club and made sure to be there, even on rainy days.

Most of the women were illiterate. Zhuzhu taught them to read first. One woman joyfully told Zhuzhu that ever since she had learned to read and write, the atmosphere in her family had improved. Whenever she had problems with her homework, her daughter would help her; and so would her husband, although he might grumble that she was slow. She was happy about this change.

Zhuzhu also practices yoga and teaches others. “Actually I’m just beginning to learn,” she says, “but they are happy to practice with me even though we mostly just sit there and chat in yoga class.”

She also encourages sex education among mothers. “Some of them are too shy to share this knowledge with their kids. They discuss their own childhood problems and then I teach them how to talk with their own kids.” Zhuzhu encourages women to bring their children to the library to enjoy some parent-child time. She has a lot of ideas for activities: for example, with their mother’s assistance, children can sort mixed beans into different colors.

Some parents were proactive and brought books to donate to the library. Some mothers even brought fried fish and desserts made from Chinese yams.

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