Ahmet Yerlikaya, a factory worker living in the southern Turkish province of Kahramanmaraş, is on a mission to promote reading. With the aid of donors, he collects books and bookshelves and builds mini-libraries inside the tents of seasonal laborers for their children. He aims to promote healthy reading habits to the children who have little access to books in the rural parts of the country.
Yerlikaya, who heads the Book and Children Association, got the idea for reaching out to children in rural Turkey after he witnessed the joy of children to whom he delivered books he had bought from a book fair in his own village five years ago. Enlisting the help of social media, he later expanded his one-man mission to other cities, towns and villages. His latest stopover was the Sarıçam district in the southern province of Adana, where he delivered books and bookshelves to seasonal workers living in tents.
Books, ranging from fiction to encyclopedias and science magazines, adorn the bookshelves. Yerlikaya said he has delivered more than 70,000 books so far. “Children are more eager to read if they have such libraries near them. I will try to restock the bookshelves with new books at least once in a month,” he said. “They have nothing to spend their free time on here other than TV. The books are also for adults. I used to be a field worker in the past and know how tiring their days can be, but they may read together, at least briefly, in the evenings, with their children,” he told Anadolu Agency (AA).
Fatma Özer, a seventh grader that Yerlikaya delivered books to, said she is happy to have her own bookshelf. “I am grateful. I am looking forward to reading books,” she said. Her 10-year-old sister Nehir said they usually spend time helping their mother with chores when she returns from the field. “We never read books here, but we will now,” she excitedly said.