A BOOK CLUB FOR MIGRANT WORKERS

Published on 19 December 2017

Photo: Zakir Hossain Khokan

“One Bag, One Book” hopes to spread the love of reading amongst migrant workers in Singapore.

By: Melanie Lee

While on a trip back home, Bangladeshi migrant and poet Zakir Hossain Khokan bought 150 Bangladeshi books from a variety of genres such as self-help and science fiction, and lugged them back to Singapore. Today, he loans these books out to foreign workers. Zakir tells The A List more about this passion project.

How did you come up with this idea of a book exchange club?

Many migrant workers carry backpacks when they go to work. In that backpack would be their essentials for the day – like a water bottle or lunchbox. My hope is that in these bags, they will also carry books in time to come.

I strongly believe that reading is essential for self-development. Reading books in one’s own language is also a source of emotional comfort when away from home – it reminds us of our country, family and culture.

How have people responded to “One Bag, One Book”?

When I offer books to some of the workers to read, they are surprised. At first, some ignore me. However, after I explain reading at least one book a year just needs a few minutes of reading each day, they see that reading is achievable. Once they read, they realise how reading connects them back to their mother country, and how reading is also is a leisure activity that relieves stress. Such responses really encourage me.

How do you intend to make “One Bag, One Book” more accessible to the migrant community?

I’ve recently received book donations from Singaporeans and other migrant workers. As such, I’m working on a new book list to cater to more people. Some workers who have read books from “One Bag, One Book are also helping me bring these books to their dormitories.

What is your favourite book from Bangladesh?

Hajar Bachhor Dhore (“Through Thousand Years”) is a classic Bangladeshi Bengali-language novel. It is written by Zahir Raihan, who is a gifted writer director, and freedom fighter. It is my favourite book because it portrays Bangladeshi rural life so authentically and vividly. It is a bestselling classic that still fascinates readers up till today.

Click here to find out more about “One Bag, One Book. If you’d like to contribute to this project, do contact Zakir at zakir.journal@gmail.com

Photo: Zakir Hossain Khokan
Photo: Zakir Hossain Khokan
Photo: Zakir Hossain Khokan
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