Garbage collector creates library from rescued books
Garbage collector creates library from rescued books Jose Alberto Gutierrez, left, talks to children visiting his library at his home in Bogota, Colombia, Wednesday. The reading material slowly piles up, and now the ground floor of his small house is a makeshift community library stacked from floor to ceiling with some 20,000 books, ranging from chemistry textbooks to children’s classics. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
Garbage collector creates library from rescued books
Lexile: 530L

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A second-grade education has not stopped garbage collector Jose Gutierrez. He is bringing the gift of reading to thousands of Colombian children.
Gutierrez started saving books from the trash. He began almost 20 years ago. He was driving a garbage truck at night. He would go through the country's richer neighborhoods. The books that were thrown away slowly piled up. And now the ground floor of his small house is a makeshift community library. It is stacked from floor to ceiling with some 20,000 books. They range from chemistry textbooks to children's classics.
He says books are rare treats for boys and girls in low-income neighborhoods such as his. New books at bookstores are too expensive. There are 19 public libraries in Bogota. It is a city of 8.5 million. But the libraries tend to be located far away from poorer areas.
"This should be in all neighborhoods. And on each corner of every neighborhood. In all the towns. In all departments. And all the rural areas," says Gutierrez. "Books are our salvation. And that is what Colombia needs."
The 53-year-old Gutierrez has a love of reading. He say he got it from his mother. She always read to him. That was even though she was too poor to keep him in school.
"She used to read me stories every night," said Gutierrez. He has traveled to book fairs in Mexico and Chile. He shares his experience of starting a library with books that are thrown away. "Books are the greatest invention.  And the best thing that can happen to a human being."
Gutierrez still looks through the trash for additions to his library. His fame as Colombia's "Lord of the Books" has helped. It has brought him thousands of donated books. He has sent many to other libraries around the country. He doesn't have room for them all.
Gutierrez is an avid reader himself. He enjoys works by authors such as Leo Tolstoy. He likes author Victor Hugo. And Mario Vargas Llosa. His favorite books are "One Hundred Years of Solitude" and "The General in his Labyrinth."  They are by a Colombian author. His name is Gabriel Garcia Marquez. He has won Nobel Prize.
He says he does not reject technology that allows books to be read digitally. But he prefers to read the printed word on paper.
"There is nothing more beautiful than having a book in your pocket. Or in your bag. Or inside your car," he says.

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Why does Jose think "books are the greatest invention and the best thing that can happen to a human being?"
Write your answers in the comments section below

  • benh-1-haw
    9/08/2015 - 09:12 a.m.

    I think it is a great idea to have a book in your car,I took a book with me for the last three days!!

  • skylag-nob
    9/08/2015 - 11:24 a.m.

    This is kind of cute

  • gabrielled-nob
    9/08/2015 - 11:46 a.m.

    I like the book because someone loves books like me. I also love books about dogs. But this book has given me a feeling to do something to do with books. I want all kids to read and love books because book are here to read and not to play with books but you can tell someone about your book and why they should read it. Books can help everyone learn how to read.

  • arib-nob
    9/08/2015 - 12:01 p.m.

    this article is great I never knew about this man he is very use full. I will always donate if I don't like a book or I finish a book I will donate this helps a lot of poor people that can't afford books and wishing to read its really use full for the kids that need books and maybe people that think books are boring this guy is great he takes a lot of books for tons of kids for years he most likely does this all day I wish I could thank him and at his age he shouldn't be doing this his family should be proud of him Jose is a nice man a really nice man he should have a big thank you he's great thank you Jose thank you.

  • georgiam-haw
    9/08/2015 - 01:25 p.m.

    Because if you don't have enough money for technology so you can't read on there you can read a book. Some people say that they love books because they get "lost" in them.

  • mallorya-haw
    9/08/2015 - 01:27 p.m.

    He thinks they are because they get your brain working.
    I think he is right because they make you smarter!

  • willr-haw
    9/08/2015 - 01:27 p.m.

    Because it feels so good when you get trapped in a book and you can learn more about it

  • maxv-haw
    9/08/2015 - 01:28 p.m.

    He thinks that because you can get any tipe of book and get lost in it.

  • isabellar-haw
    9/08/2015 - 01:29 p.m.

    I think he says that because books teacher you so much and help record important memories in your life, your families life, your friends life,and important history book really are the best thing to happen to mankind.What will happen in you next chapter maybe you will write it down?

  • covingtonh-haw
    9/08/2015 - 01:29 p.m.

    Because he loves books and his mom used to read to him every night.Books are great and that is why there are libraries and book stores,People should love books they play a very good roll in life and learning.

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