ABD Vol.28 No.4
Reading Promotion Activities in Iran
We have kept reminding ourselves of the promise that was made at The World Summit for Children in 1990: Universal access to basic education by the year 2000. Related to this important task, libraries are indeed a vital centre for every individual, but libraries cannot succeed without mass-education, especially for the under-privileged children in rural, remote and slum areas. Responding to this crucial necessity, we have established over 600 centres in mobile, postal or stationary libraries throughout our country, especially in rural and remote areas.
The Institute for Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults is a centre which acts to provide cultural possibilities in order to develop and train thoughts, and to promote literary and artistic talents of children and young adults. One of its activities is the postal library, performing in rural parts of the country since 1984. At present, 45 postal libraries are active in 22 provinces, which send books and reading materials to 52,000 children and young adults, covering 1,072 villages. The main aim of this project is to open the doors to the New World by providing easy access to books. Any child in any part of the country can become a member of the postal library, by requesting a membership form and returning it with information about themselves, their favorite subjects and books. They will receive their books in a short time, and postage is paid by the Institute.
The postal library also conducts the following activities: 1. Sending different cards for special occasions, suitable to the age group; 2. Best book, painting and handicraft awards ceremonies held at the centre's branches; 3. Encouraging members to study the school texts in order to progress, and improve their knowledge; 4. Sending awards and prizes to encourage active members and enrich their spare time.
However, after years of working and serving in this kind of library we have found there are various improvements which need to be made. First of all, we must reduce the costs related to delivery and administration, which are a great burden on the Institute and won't be remedied unless postal services are provided in remote areas. Another issue is the need to expand the service to include adult literacy and primary education in rural regions, as we know children in their early childhood rely on their parents, especially mothers, to help them in reading or just read to them, their very first bedtime stories. Therefore, we have to get people used to reading more books, and books should become a major source of knowledge, accessible to all. When the public and private sectors join in and disseminate these areas with appropriate reading materials and provide manpower necessary to administer the process, the problem will be taken care of. There are also needs to hold activities to encourage and motivate potential readers, to increase the number of books on a wide range of subjects available for all levels, and to provide reading materials compatible with the people's interests and their traditional life-style to help them with their every-day problems such as economy, health, etc.
The Institute also conducts activities contributing towards development of the literacy works for children and young adults through encouragement of writers, designers and illustrators, production of motion pictures, tapes, film strips and creative/educational toys and staging plays for children and young adults, and cooperation with all organizations having common objectives and goals with the Institute.
Book Development Activities by "Book City"
It has been more than a year since "Book City", a non-profit, charitable Institute, started studying book matters and new publications. Its main aim is to develop books and provide easy access to books and all kinds of reading materials. Collaborating with more than 200 domestic and about 250 foreign publishers, Book City collects and provides many updated foreign and domestic publications in the fields of science, technology, art and also children's literature. Information about new books by computer and fax are also available in its facility.
Book City organises a professional book fair aimed at researchers, translators and publishers. It organized the first book fair on children and young adults' literature in March 1997, with about 6,000 titles of domestic and foreign books. Also it celebrated its first book festival along with the 10th Tehran International Book Fair with the cooperation of "The Voice of Youth", a programme on the Islamic Republic of Iran's radio network. It also took action to sell book coupons with a 10 percent discount to students on the special occasion of Teachers' Day. It has also succeeded in supplying books, catalogues, computer system installation, software, etc. to 148 public libraries and 20 schools libraries all over Iran.
Book City opened the "Fajr Decade Book Fair" with 15 percent to 40 percent discount during the Fajr Decade (a celebration time for the remembrance of our Islamic revolution), from in February 1998. During the Decade, all its branches presented their books with 15 percent discount to its members and 10 percent discount to other customers. In addition to books, various kinds of stationary, video and tape cassettes and other cultural and educational instruments were available at the branches. Book City hopes to open up more branches in different parts of the country, especially in the slum and deprived areas.
Director, International Affairs, Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults, Iran