EUGENE, Ore. — The mission of Better World Books is to make books accessible for everyone around the globe. And one Oregon State University graduate, now in the Peace Corps, is working in Ethiopia to try to provide children at her school a library full of books that could open new doors of wonder and imagination to their lives.
Mellissa Chislom has been working at a school in Debark, Ethiopia, for about a year and a half. While there, she has noticed the lack of reading material that is available to anyone, including the students at her school.
“All children deserve the joy of reading a good book,” she said. “These students don’t even have books in their local language.”
Chislom says she works at a primary school that is composed of mud structures. All but one building has electricity. But for the children, growing up in an area that many of them may never leave, Chislom says reading provides an opportunity for wonder and excitement.
“Watching the students read has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life,” she said. “Most of them have never had stories read to them. The first time I read to a group of first grade students, they thought it was the most amazing thing ever. They all pile into my classroom anytime I start reading anything.”
She says many Americans grow up reading books by Doctor Seuss or other stories that provide an opportunity to spark imagination.
“When you ask these students for a creative story, they never come up with things like dragons or dinosaurs or anything that haven’t seen or heard about,” she said.
Meanwhile, Chislom says life in Oregon is a bit different.
“I can walk ten minutes and go buy a book,” she said. “Or twenty minutes and find a library and get one for free. And they don’t have that opportunity.”
Chislom wants the students at her school to have the same opportunities as kids around the world. She says English is a growing language, and those who speak English in Dabark are more likely to get better jobs such as tour guides.
“These kids like books. They just don’t have the access to them.”
For a couple of dollars, anyone who wishes to donate books to the school Chislom works at can do so by purchasing used books at: www.betterworldbooks.com. Chislom has a wish list that is available by clicking here, though she says the students at her school would be thrilled to receive any book – new or used. Better World Books ships books for free. Her mailing address is: Mellissa Chislom / PO BOX 53 /Debark, Amhara / Ethiopia.
“I highly encourage people to get involved in any way that they can because it really improves the lives here,” she said.