Larry Zieammermann, Hap Waddell, and Charlie Nordquist did not flinch at setting a high goal for the book drive they have started to support their reading project through Happy Hustlers 4-H club.
“We want to raise at least 1,001 books,” Zieammermann said.
Donated books will go to Ethiopia Reads, a charitable organization with a mission to improve literacy rates in Ethiopia. The youths became aware of the charity through Waddell’s mother Sarah, a Marion Elementary School teacher who traveled to Ethiopia last June.
“They donate books to kids in Ethiopia who don’t have any, and make libraries,” Waddell said.
Ethiopia Reads has 43 libraries in central and southern Ethiopia, including five mobile ones.
“They have libraries that are carts of books, and they’re pulled by donkeys,” Zieammermann said.
In addition to collecting books, Ethiopia Reads publishes children’s books in both English and Ethiopian languages to help counteract the high rate of illiteracy in the country.
“Only 36 percent of the adults can read,” Zieammermann said.
“Seventeen percent of Ethiopian girls graduate from high school — 83 percent don’t,” Waddell added.
The boys decided to engage the community by placing donation boxes decorated with the bright green, yellow, and red colors of the Ethiopian flag.
“We decided to put them in more places people are, so we’ll get more books,” Nordquist said.
Boxes are currently located at Carlsons’ Grocery, Marion City Library, and Marion Elementary School. Additional locations will be identified as the drive progresses.
New and used children’s books are a priority, but books for adults are also welcome. Zieammermann said there are two subject areas donors should avoid to be respectful of Ethiopian culture.
“We can’t accept religious books. It has to do with the fact they have so many different religions over there, and they don’t want to promote a certain one,” Zieammermann said. “We also can’t take American history books.”
The book drive will continue through the end of the 4-H program year in September. For more information, contact reading project sponsor Cathy Martin at (620) 382-2510.