It has been 6 years since the workers at Azarestan Construction Co. have adopted a new custom within their families and started reading books. In 2014, a Read with Me project, unlike any other, started in this company with full support from its managers, in particular Ms. Parvin Amini.
Initially, 60 mothers from the worker and employee families of this company were introduced to read-aloud techniques, methods of reading with babies and toddlers and the Basic Literacy Creative Education method. Thereupon, fathers borrowed books from the libray and took to their families each week. After reading the aloud to their children, they’d return the books and borrow new ones.
Azarestan Library was opened in autumn 2015. With a trained librarian and a Read with Me expert supervising the activities monthly, this library became a culture base for the worker families. It has more than 3000 books (1500 titles) for children and adolescents as well as 500 books (400 titles) for adults. Among these, 1500 books have reached families during the pandemic. Currently, the library has 200 families as members.
Activities During the Pandemic
The onset of the pandemic led to the factory and library closing for some months. Following the decline in cases after the first wave of the pandemic, the library reopened on 16 May 2020 with health and safety considerations. It changed procedures completely. All books are disinfected a week after return, and only then put back on the shelves. Workers are the main visitors who come an borrow books for their families.
Virtual platforms have gained importance in line with the current demand for online communication. Accordingly, Azarestan library has created an online group with the purpose of educating its 90 members. Each day of the week has been assigned to a certain topic so that the members can easily follow what they’re interested in. These topics include: children’s literature and introducing quality books, introducing great people, safety at home and at the workplace, health and hygiene, the environment, life skills for children and the activities of library members and the effect of reading books on children.
With families worrying about their children’s current lifestyle staying at home, the library has sought different forms of entertainment for these children. In addition to books, they lend animations, toys and other cultural products.
Environmental activities have been front and center in Azarestan library since 2016. By recycling papers and selling them, the library has been able to add 230 books to its collection.
Letters from Library Members
Families need to stay in close contact for the library to understand their demands and improve upon its actions. One way to establish such connection is through writing letters. Children write letters to the library and tell of their feelings, books they have read, books they would like to read as well as their suggestions and opinions. Abolfazl, 12 years of age, has written the following:
“ In the name of God.
Hello. I thank you for giving us children good books easily. I read Inspector Cito and it was really good. I want the library to have things us children don’t know about. Like weird creatures, planets and a lot of other things. The owner of Azarestan company is a very good person in my opinion. Both for children and adults. For adults, because he cares about their health and for children because he doesn’t let them get bored. He gives us any book we like for free.
I like the librarians because they are kind to us and patiently listen to us and guide us.
In general, I’m very pleased with the library.”
The following are other feedback that members have shared with the library through different communication platforms:
“I have two daughters, 8 and 12 years old. I have borrowed books for them ever since the library opened in 2015. My 8 year-old learned the numbers, shapes, colors, … through those books before starting school. It had a tremendous effect on her studies since she’s now first of her class. My 12 year-old has read most books in the library and is very interested in reading. She has become quite a bookworm.”
۱۰ year-old Hasti says: “I was 6 years old when I got to know about books through Azarestan library. My mom always read them to me. Gradually I started reading them myself. I know a lot of vocabulary now and I’m much more fluent in speech.”
And her father agrees: “Hasti is very wise compared to her peers, she speaks meticulously, she is more confident and her studies are going great. She likes “Judy Moody Gets Famous” because of Judy’s character. And after reading “Frog is Frightened” she tried not o be scared of anything.”
Amirreza is 6 years old. His mother reads to him. She says: “After reading an environmental book, whenever we leave the faucet on, he says: “turn the water off. Animals have no water in the jungle.” When he showers, he’s careful he doesn’t use too much water.”
Erfan, a 12 year-old tries to expand his general knowledge with books. His favorite is the Horrid Henry series. He has read 4 volumes and would like to read the rest. His sister, Parnian who is in 3rd grade, enjoys Max Velthuijs’s Frog series.
Reyhaneh, studying in 9th grade, has read The Fire Thief series and is more interested in legends. She writes stories herself. She says: “We don’t have the opportunity to travel around the world. We travel through books and experience new worlds. Life is too short to be able to experience everything.”