An advocate's alchemy

Nila Tanzil is an Indonesian advocate who is the founder of Rainbow Reading Gardens, an organisation that promotes literacy in underdeveloped and remote areas of eastern Indonesia. In less than three years, she has distributed more than 20,000 books and built 25 children's libraries across 10 islands. With an active and sprightly attitude which reflects her love for travelling and working full-time at Nike, Tanzil has never feared arduous travelling through the island jungles to get her libraries set up.

_ Parisa Pichitmarn

What are you reading?

An Indonesian book called Hampir Fotografi (Almost Photography) by my photographer friend Jerry Aurum. I finished it in two days. He wrote it and it's just been recently launched. He shares tips on how to take good photos while travelling, how to make them different from your friends' photos and how to work with your passion.

What are your favourite books of all time?

I love the books by Paulo Coelho and my favourites are The Alchemist and Veronika Decides To Die. I love his books because they talk about the meaning of life and the philosophy of life. I think it makes me appreciate life more and it makes me question more. It's not only a novel, because it's deeper.

Any types of books you don't like?

I didn't read Fifty Shades Of Grey, even though it's all the rage. I love books which can give me something so I don't read chick lit because I think it's a waste of time.

What are some books you still remember from childhood?

My childhood favourites are Tintin, Donald Duck and Enid Blyton's Malory Towers books and Famous Five books. Something I remember since I was a child is this book series featuring a character called Martine by Gilbert Delahaye. It's a Belgian book but got translated into Indonesian and [the character] is called Tini instead. Every time I buy books from second-hand bookshops for my libraries and find a Tini book I always scream happily and remember the joy of my childhood reading.

What is one book you think all kids should read?

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. It's a really good children's book, because it has pictures and the story is very simple, but it has so much meaning. It's a story of a tree and a young boy, in which the tree is always giving to the boy, whether it is shade for protection or branches for the boy to make a boat so he can travel. It really teaches you to be generous and help each other. It also teaches you to be grateful to people who have already helped you, like your parents.

What is one book you've always wanted to read but haven't gotten around to?

People talk about The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, which I have on my shelf as well, but still haven't gotten around to reading yet. There's always other books that catch my attention more that I can't wait to read.

What are some of the things you teach to the children at the library, other than reading?

We help them with organising their thoughts so they can be better at story-telling. We also try to teach that reading can be a fun thing and that it doesn't have to be a bore. To do that, we take them out to reading by the lakes, sea, hills and trees so they can enjoy their books under a brilliant blue sky with beautiful and peaceful scenery.