Book Donation Program

Yale Club of Beijing Book Donation Program for Rural Secondary Schools 

To read about the 2014 trip, please click here

The Yale Club of Beijing (YCB) has sponsored a book donation program for rural secondary schools since 2003. The program is a community service and academic exchange activity of the Yale Club of Beijing that builds upon the 170-year history of academic exchanges between Yale and China. Since 2006, the book donation program has been coordinated by Dr. Gwendolyn Zahner (PhD Yale ’83), an epidemiologist who is currently teaching graduate and undergraduate medical courses as a Foreign Expert at Peking Union Medical College and the Cancer Institute, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences in Beijing, China.

Through this program, each rural school receives a small library of new English-language or bilingual Chinese-English books, purchased for the school in Beijing by YCB. The books are chosen by each school to best meet the needs of its own student from a 2,000-title list of books in print provided by the Beijing Foreign Language Bookstore. Funds for books are raised by YCB through newsletters, website announcements, and at YCB concerts, lectures and other events. Our budget guidelines are 1,500 RMB – 3,000RMB per library, depending on the size of the school. The donation has grown from 20-30 books per school to over 200 books for each school library. The program has donated over 6,000 new books to secondary schools in China.

In 2006, at the request of Chinese rural schools and town governments, the program expanded to offer opportunities for English practice with native English-language speakers along with book donations. Yale students, faculty, and alumni began volunteering to travel to rural schools across China to donate books and to assist students with practicing English. Since July 2006, YCB volunteers have traveled to 39 different schools in 13 Chinese provinces, carrying donations of over 6,000 books. Twenty six book donation and English practice trips have been completed to rural schools across China in Anhui, Gansu, Guizhou, Heilongjiang, Hebei, Henan, Hunan, Inner Mongolia, Jiangxi, Qinghai, Shanxi, Xizang, and Yunnan provinces.

Volunteers traveling on these trips included 56 Yale undergraduate students, 2 Yale graduate and professional students, 18 Yale faculty and administrators, 45 Yale alumni, 24 Chinese students and faculty from Yale’s joint-undergraduate program at Peking University, and 46 “friends and family of Yale” in Beijing. Travel costs for book donation trips are paid by volunteers themselves, with the exception of members of the Yale-Peking University (Yale-PKU) joint undergraduate program, whose travel was subsidized by Yale University. After the Yale-PKU program ended in 2012, YCB has provided a limited number of travel awards for Yale undergraduate student travel, with travel funding donated by individual members of YCB.

Addressing a current need of China’s rural educational systems

In China, as in many other countries, the resources of rural educational systems are much poorer than their urban counterparts. The Yale Club of Beijing’s Book Donation Program is designed to address only a small number of the current needs of China’s rural education system, but these needs are very real and important ones. English instruction is now mandatory in all primary and secondary schools in China, but many rural schools lack English-language books in their libraries for use by either teachers or students. Many rural English teachers and students have never heard English spoken by native-English speakers. Foreign language bookstores do not exist outside of the major metropolises in China.

Offering an opportunity for educational exchange and community service for Yale students and affiliates in China

The Club’s book donation program also responds to the needs of the growing Yale student community in China. Most international educational programs in China are based in metropolitan centers and offer limited opportunities for interactions with China’s rural majority of 700-900 million citizens. The Yale Club of Beijing’s Book Donation Program involves rural educational systems across diverse regions and provinces, allowing Yale students in China to learn more about the vast rural sector of this country as part of their educational experience. Community service is also a core activity of leadership training. Although there are many NGO’s and charities operating in China, it may be difficult for students involved in short-term stays in China to make meaningful contributions to these ongoing programs. The Yale Club of Beijing book donation / English practice trips to rural secondary schools are designed for these students. Trips are usually held over 3-day weekends and can be scheduled in advance. In addition to Yale students, Yale alumni and “friends of Yale” in the Beijing area who are native English language speakers have been welcomed as volunteers. Diversity among the volunteers enhances the value of the experience for the schools and the volunteers.

Ongoing activities

We plan to continue building English-bilingual libraries in rural secondary schools. We will call for volunteers in YCB’s newsletters and events when new book donation trips have been confirmed.

What books do Chinese rural secondary schools request?

  • Abridged English readers at graded reading levels (most now with CD/MP3 audio)
  • History, science, and sports books
  • Biographies
  • Complete and unabridged English-language collections of short stories, myths, and fables, with Chinese annotations of key words
  • Complete and unabridged bilingual editions of world classics (e.g. Shakespeare, Hemingway, Conrad, Lu Xun, Plato)
  • Dictionaries and encyclopedias
  • We have also been asked to bring: audiovisual equipment, anti-virus software

Summary for July 2006- July 2013

  • Book donated: 6,017
  • Provinces visited: 13
  • Schools visited: 49
  • Volunteers traveling on 26 Book Donation trips: 189