PETALING JAYA: The prevalence of technology in the lives of everyday Malaysians has sadly rendered reading to a habit on the wane.
Almost everyone be it young or old, rich or poor, can afford a smartphone today and what better way to while away your time than by scrolling on the phone?
Books now sit on shelves at home gathering dust as the reading habit has lost its once formidable lustre.
The Book Effect seeks to reverse this trend and re-instil the love of reading in Malaysians, as well as ensure that those who desire to read get the books they want.
Started last August, The Book Effect is a project by Apshy Vimal, 23, a Friends to Mankind Youth Ambassador and project lead.
Friends to Mankind is an international non-profit organisation that works to transform humanity for the better.
The Book Effect establishes community libraries in public spaces and redistributes books donated by members of the public to underprivileged children.
Public reception has been excellent, with the project achieving its goal of accumulating and redistributing 10,000 books in just over two months.
Increased targets of 20,000 and 30,000 were subsequently set and reached so now the project is aiming its sights on its latest benchmark of 50,000 books.
Speaking to FMT, Apshy said the Book Effect project is based on her belief in the importance of education and how reading ties in closely with that.
“I believe that reading is something that is special; as it gives you so much confidence,” she says.
“It helps build your imagination, your cognitive growth. If you read from a young age, your brain is going to develop in a positive way.”
Admitting that she personally finds it hard to reinvigorate the reading habit that she enjoyed as a child, Apshy is taking steps to remedy this and wishes to help young Malaysians do the same.
“Reading has always been a big part of my life. There have been books that I have read that leave me in disbelief.”
With the over-dependence on digital devices among youngsters these days, it just seems natural to push books forward as a tool of learning and entertainment once more.
According to her, the libraries that The Book Effect builds are meant for “children who don’t have access to books, who live in orphanages, refugee schools or in low-income housing, whose parents may not be able to afford books for them.”
With over 50 volunteers working on the project, The Book Effect currently operates in the Klang Valley only but there are plans to push their outreach beyond Selangor.
So if you have books that you would like to give away, what do you have to do to get The Book Effect’s attention?
Apshy says, “You can always contact us on Facebook at Friends to Mankind or via our Instagram page. We have a lot of book drop-off locations around the Klang Valley as well.”
“Or you can always contact us and we will be happy to come and pick up your books.”
There are few limitations on the books that you can choose to donate as The Book Effect accepts all books, irrespective of their genre or language.
Apshy says that books on heavier subjects are also welcome as these can be distributed to their 15 community libraries and possibly in the future, to old folks’ homes.
Younger themed books will be distributed to adolescents housed in orphanages.
The rule of thumb, she says, is that if a book is in a condition good enough for you to read, it should be good enough for others to read.
Members of the public are welcome to take books home from the community libraries, as long as the books are being read at the end of the day.
Her work does get hectic at times; at one point 13,000 books came into the possession of The Book Effect and her team had to work overtime to sort, pack and distribute the books.
What keeps her going is knowing that together with a great team, she serves a good cause and therefore has no qualms of putting in her best effort in ensuring the work is complete.
“We are all guilty to an extent of falling victim to our smartphones…So I think it is difficult to revive the reading habit, but it’s still possible.”
Taking pride in her work, she says that the best part of what she does is witnessing the enthusiastic faces of children who delight in seeing new libraries crop up.
“You never know how children are going to react, but children are very honest.”
“I worried that they would prefer toys or something else, but when they see these libraries, they are always so happy and excited. When they grab a book and start reading, that just fills my heart with happiness.”
For more information on The Book Effect project or to donate books, visit www.friendstomankind.org or call +603 6157 7746/012-3912797.