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February 26th, 2010
06:00 AM ET

Teaching kids to read from the back of a burro

By Ebonne Ruffins, CNN

Magdalena, Colombia (CNN) - To the unaccustomed eye, a man toting 120 books while riding a stubborn donkey would seem nothing short of a circus spectacle. But for hundreds of children in the rural villages of Colombia, Luis Soriano is far from a clown. He is a man with a mission to save rural children from illiteracy.

"There was a time when many people thought that I was going crazy," said Soriano, a native of La Gloria, Colombia. "They'd yell, 'Carnival season is over.' ... Now I've overcome that."

Soriano, 38, is a primary school teacher who spends his free time operating a "biblioburro," a mobile library on donkeys that offers reading education for hundreds of children living in what he describes as "abandoned regions" in the Colombian state of Magdalena.

"In [rural] regions, a child must walk or ride a donkey for up to 40 minutes to reach the closest schools," Soriano said. "The children have very few opportunities to go to secondary school. ...There are [few] teachers that would like to teach in the countryside."

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