Kohima: In an attempt to revive the dying art of reading books, Akho Phira (25) and his elder brother Thepfukelie Phira (33) from Kigwema village in Nagaland have set up a small “community library” in their village — about 18 km from state capital Kohima, making books more accessible to the people.

“As a child, we used to exchange Tinkle comics and story books with friends. But now we see that with smartphones all around, reading books has become rare. So, we wanted to revive this dying art of reading books,” Akho told EastMojo.

Akho, who found his interest in reading books while pursuing his post-graduate studies in Chennai, said that in order to encourage the youth and children to read books, making books accessible to them was a significant step which gave him an idea to set up the street-like mini library.

Although the library was initially planned for the youth, the brothers are happy that even children are now coming forward to read the books

“The idea to set up a library struck me. So, I shared the idea with my brother and the library took shape in about a week’s time,” said Akho, who is currently working as a programme associate of North East Network (NEN) based in Chizami, Phek district.

The street library, which came to be known as the “community library”, was formally launched by Village Development Board (VDB) secretary Ruokuovikho Chale and dedicated to the people by Razukhele Phira on July 23.

The library was set up at a small community outdoor sitting space called “Nepi Tsekhwe”, making it more accessible to the people. Currently, the library hosts nearly a hundred books across a range of genres. He informed that some books and monetary aid were also received from their well-wishers.

The mini library has been set up at a small community outdoor sitting space called ‘Nepi Tsekhwe’ in a bid to make books more accessible to the people

“This was a very personal project. We hope that it will drive positive action and change. Although a small initiative, we really hope to engage with the youth towards community development,” he said.

To create more awareness to the people about the library, Akho and his brother also started an Instagram page to promote its activities. Over a week after the launch of the library, he said it was observed that often children who come to play around the area now tend to read the story books as well. “People have started to borrow novels as well,” he gladly said.

Currently, the ‘community library’ hosts nearly a hundred books across a range of genres

In the days to come, the duo hope to give more information to the residents in the village — even the older generation — through the library by subscribing to local dailies. “We want to tap the space to its maximum potential and not just use it as a regular Library. But as it just took off, we wish to wait for some time and if it flourishes, we will be working on the next step,” he added.

Although the library was initially planned for the youth, he shared contentment as children are also coming forward to read the books. “We have observed that most children just flip through the pages, unable to read stories on their own. It is not very delightful, but the lockdown seems to have created a negative impact on them as formal learning has been affected. Through the initiative, we are only hopeful that it will be helpful to them in some ways,” he added.

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Akho, the youngest among four siblings, completed his Master’s degree in social innovation and entrepreneurship from Chennai, followed by a fellowship with Goonj, before he returned to the state. He joined NEN in October last year.

Even as some are apprehensive about the library fearing theft of books, Akho is optimistic that such a situation may not arise. He informed that a database of the books that are kept at the library is also maintained to track the books.

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