There is nothing more valuable to give a child than an education, and books play an important role in that.

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), Malaysia’s literacy rate stands at almost 95%. However, thousands of children from rural and urban-poor areas, as well as refugee children, still lack access to books.

A social entrepreneurial project called BookMyHappiness aims to play a part in changing that, believing in the power of reading and committed to improving the quality of education among underprivileged children in Malaysia.

The project was the idea of five young people who joined McKinsey Malaysia’s Youth Leadership Academy (YLA) programme in July this year.

“The objective of the YLA programme is to accelerate leadership development among Malaysia’s top local university students and to create a new generation of Malaysian youths with ambitions to contribute to the nation’s social development. It was also created to share knowledge and experience on how future leaders can solve Malaysia’s toughest social problems,” shares Lim Yew Wey, 22, one of the founders of the project.

“All of us picked the education theme as our first choice when we applied to join the 12-week programme. We were strangers before we met through YLA, and what brought us closer together as a team was that we shared the love of reading and wanted more students to discover their love for reading,” says Lim, a Bachelor of Business graduate currently working at a blockchain foundation, when we met recently.

Lim and Woon hope to turn BookMyHappiness into a movement in the future. Photo: The Star/Norafifi Ehsan

Since it first started, the BookMyHappiness project has seen them collecting more than 1,000 books, build four libraries and raise more than RM1,000 to buy bookshelves and school supplies.

“In the early stages, we kept asking ourselves, ‘How do we get people to read?’ and through discussions with a mentor from the Education Ministry, we found that due to the lack of availability of books in underprivileged communities, many children do not have access to books,” adds Diana Woon, another founder.

“Thus, we narrowed our focus on improving (the level of) reading and English literacy and how to make books accessible to everyone,” adds Woon, 21, a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration student at a private college.

The project is meaningful to both of them in different ways.

“I hope that more children can discover their love for reading and reap its benefits at a young age,” says Woon.

Lim adds, “Each time we bring books to the children, it is a joy to see the vibrant smiles on their faces.”

So what happens with BookMyHappiness at the end of the 12-week programme?

“After we clear the books we have previously collected, we are planning to turn this project into a movement to equip people to adopt our project. It is actually very easy as one would only need to collect, sell and donate,” says Lim.

“We hope with this simple formula, we are able to encourage people to get involved in this project to create a huge social impact with limited resources,” he says, adding that they also hope to work with student organisations in universities on the project.