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The Power of Story
pp. 77-79
by Joan Wink
Published by Libraries Unlimited/ABCLIO
Copyright © 2018 by Joan Wink
Chapter 3 – Animals and the Alphabet

Reading With Our Pets: Cats, Dogs, Horses, And, Yes, Chickens

Horses in Appalachia: That Book Woman

During the 1930s President Franklin D. Roosevelt wanted to bring books to children and families who lived in very isolated areas where there were few schools and libraries. His goal finally became a reality in remote areas of Kentucky, where families lived high in the mountains, accessible only by creek beds and rugged trails. A few men, but mostly women, were initially called Pack Horse Libraries. An overwhelming number of women carried out this task, and they eventually became known as Book Women, a story, which is beautifully captured in That Book Woman (Henson, 2008). These women would ride horses and/or mules every two weeks, rain or shine, to carry books to the children. The women riders were known to be resilient and dedicated to literacy. They received very little salary, but the families, who benefitted, often shared garden produce, flowers, berries, and recipes, which were already generations old. The families shared what they could.

Horses in Ethiopia and Beyond

A similar book sharing program, Ethiopia Reads Horse Power Literacy (HPL) has now has developed in Ethiopia, primarily based on the determination and dedication of Jane Kurtz, children’s author. In two of her blog posts, (2016, March 7,, & 2016, March 9,, Kurtz captures the beauty and magic of children having access to books, even though they live in very remote areas. Kurtz also writes of the transformative nature of these books on the communities and local schools. Kurtz writes, “One thing that kills me is that, in my lifetime as a teacher, I saw a lot of schools go from places where kids sat frozen in desks doing worksheets to places where kids had classroom libraries and wrote books and did lots of hands-on projects to places where kids are sitting frozen in desks doing worksheets (2016, March 9, Cien Keilty-Lucas, who works for Ethiopia Reads, writes how literacy is contagious and begets an overwhelming thirst for learning (

A Man and His Horse in Indonesia
One could almost think that this notion of getting books to kids in remote areas has a world-wide appeal, and maybe even a little momentum. Once you start looking for this, you will find more and more examples, from the lively colors of Ethiopia to the moist warmth of Indonesia, where we can visit another man and horse carrying books to children in remote areas. The photos of Putu Sayoga captures the book-laden horse ( In addition, you can watch it on YouTube:

A Man and His Burro in Columbia: That Biblioburro
I guess I cannot say that Luís Serrano and his Biblioburro are famous yet, but certainly more people are aware of his contributions of books to children in Colombia–particularly since PBS did a special on him ( In addition, he is also available on YouTube. Serrano is particularly intriguing, as his life and his house are totally dedicated to children and literacy. He now has thousands of books to share with children. Sometimes he is known as a library on six feet and four legs. In addition, you can watch him on YouTube:

I know that a soon as I write this, there will be other people, in other places, who are also making sure that impoverished children have books. For example, I am aware of in Azerbaijan, a camel is used to deliver books (Ruurs, 2005); in addition, she has stories of unusual methods of moving books to children throughout the world.

Bikes in Virginia: Books on Bikes
In Charlottesville, Virginia, it is not a horse, nor a burro, nor a camel, which comes bearing books, but rather bikes with bells announcing their arrival. Not only do they get books, but also popsicles. The teachers and librarians have joined together for this literacy outreach program to the children living in public housing. Many of these children have few or no books in their homes, and they have little to no access to public transportation.

First the teachers and librarians focused on fundraising so they could purchase three cargo bikes. The public library’s “Friends of the Library” provided books and help to secure donated books from the community. Nothing ever succeeds quite like success, and the groups continue to raise more money for more bikes and more books. And, more popsicles. Not only are they creating readers, they have noticed that when fall comes again, children are spending more times with books in the library. This program has created community and a safe place for children from poverty areas. As important as the books are, they are also a path to relationships between students and their families within the school and library community (Flowers, R., 2016).

Read and Ride in Texas
Many paths to literacy, indeed–I recently read of a school in Texas that has a Read and Ride program, in which kids can read on stationary bikes. If bouncy balls can replace chairs in some districts, I should have guessed that we would soon see stationary bikes for kids to use during their library time. Of all of the paths to literacy, I never would have guessed a bike path also. (Stein, R., 2016, September 19).