Lei Pingyang, the 2010 Lu Xun Literature Prize winning poet, still remembers the book that ignited his lifelong love for reading and set him on a path out of his birthplace in a remote village in Yunnan.
Growing up poor, Lei had little access to books and often went hungry. It was a village doctor who loaned him a copy of the “Romance of the Three Kingdoms,” one of the four great Chinese classical novels, that sparked his interest in literature.
“From that moment on, reading became an inseparable part of my life, and reading led me out of the small mountain village to a bigger world,” Lei, 55, recounted last May to pupils at a primary school in Dali, Yunnan. He encouraged the children to “reach for the skies, aim for the limitless horizon.”
Lei was one of many renowned authors who visited schools in remote areas as part of an outreach campaign organized by Pinduoduo to promote reading. Since April 2021, Pinduoduo has worked with local governments and prominent writers to organize readings and donate books to rural schools in provinces including Sichuan, Guizhou, Shanxi, Yunnan and Gansu.
Each event typically involves authors reading snippets from their books and leading class discussions. In many of these sessions, many children expressed hopes to “see the outside world” and “venture out of the big mountains.”
Their views were met with encouragement from the writers, who shared their personal stories of how reading laid the foundation for them to pursue higher education and broaden their horizons.
Reading ability has long been linked to academic success. It is also correlated to factors including infrastructure availability, family education levels and household income, which tend to be lower in the more remote parts of the country.
By donating books and arranging for renowned authors to interact with school children from less-privileged backgrounds, Pinduoduo hopes to inspire more of the young and spark a passion for reading and learning.
To date, Pinduoduo has donated more than 120,000 books in the ongoing campaign. The books are chosen with input from authors and experts in the academic and cultural fields, and tailored to the conditions of the recipient school.
Last year, Pinduoduo organized three “reading months” in April, August and December, respectively, involving more than 60 publishing houses. The e-commerce platform operator also entered an alliance with leading publishers and online bookstores to promote reading and the book industry.