It’s not an sf-related story, admits Steven Silver in his e-mail. But he knew I’d like it and that would be enough reason to post it here — we fans always find a way to appropriate the stories we like.  

Luis Soriano is a Colombian teacher who loads his burros Alfa and Beto full of books twice a week and rides for hours to reach obscure villages in rural Colombia to encourage kids to read.

At the start of his 17-year teaching career, Soriano realized that some students were having difficulty not just learning, but finishing their homework assignments. Most of the students falling behind lived in rural villages, where illiterate parents and lack of access to books prevented them from completing their studies.

To help bridge the learning gap, Soriano decided to personally bring books to the children.

“I saw two unemployed donkeys at home and had the idea [to use] them in my biblioburro project because they can carry a heavy load,” Soriano said. “I put the books on their backs in saddles and they became my work tools.”

[Thanks to Steven H. Silver for the story.]

Positive Reading

Reading is on the rise in America for the first time in the history of the National Endowment for the Arts’ Survey of Public Participation in the Arts. Conducted five times since 1982, until now the survey has reflected a continual downtown in the overall rate at which adults read literature (novels and short stories, plays, or poems). But in 2008 it rebounded, up seven percent.

Analysts explained that the growth in new readers reflects higher adult reading rates combined with overall population growth. The rate of increase is most rapid among young adults, age 18-24. The absolute number of adult literary readers grew by 16.6 million between 2002 and 2008.

The survey shows that online readers are also book readers, either in electronic or print media. So naturally I wondered – would their next book be a Cory Doctorow novel? A John Scalzi novel? Possibly, but the odds are against it being a science fiction novel by anyone.

Adults who said they read novels and/or short stories were asked which of five categories of fiction they enjoy. Unfortunately, science fiction trailed the field, enjoyed by only 25.4% of the respondents, following mysteries 53.0%, “other fiction” 40.8%, thrillers 32.6% and romance 28.5%.


The survey sample size was over 18,000 adults. To learn more about the results, download the brochure: Reading on Rise.pdf.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the link.]