Vanuatu, a world without books

Literacy, as least as developed countries conceive of it, isn’t everything, writer JB Whitmore discovers in Vanuatu.

Scribbler's Playhouse

Waiting in the tiny Longana airport on the island of Ambae, I look up and find a boy staring. Not just at me, but at all four of us white people reading, each with a different delivery device: Kindle, book, magazine, smart phone.

Everyone around us is talking, laughing, playing with kids.

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It was one of the most iconic, don’t-fit-in moments of our visit.

I spend a lot of time reading and writing. Here we were in a place where people hardly read at all.

Vanuatu is the most linguistically diverse country in the world—over 100 languages, spread over the 80+ islands—thanks to 3,000 years as a trading center. Many people speak three or more languages: Bislama, the pidgin everyone speaks; a local language; and English and/or French.

Access to books in any of those languages is rare.

IMG_3310.jpg The National Public Library is in Port Vila, on Etafe, and has…

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