A charity this week launched a campaign to 'immunise' local children against illiteracy. Bring Me A Book (Hong Kong) aims to establish small bilingual libraries in community centres citywide and is running parent education courses to promote development of reading habits in the home. 'Literacy is a bit like immunisation,' said Dianne Calvi, president of the US-based parent charity, Bring Me A Book, who was in town this week. 'If you solve the problem of early literacy, you automatically sort out a whole host of other problems in schools. The single most important factor that determines whether children succeed or not is how often they were read to in the early years. The other factor is how much access to books they have.' The Hong Kong branch of the charity, which operates in seven countries, was set up in March last year in collaboration with the Chen Yet-sen Family Foundation. Chairman James Chen said he had been moved to import the model by the 2001 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, which found just 16 per cent of Hong Kong parents read regularly to their children in early childhood. That put the city last out of 35 developed nations. Mr Chen said there seemed to be no tradition of reading aloud to children here, even in affluent families. 'The idea is to teach the parents,' he said. 'Mothers and fathers are ultimately the first teachers of all children, so we need to get them comfortable in reading.' He had been impressed by the way the charity worked. Individual donors could sponsor small bookcase libraries of up to 200 books, which could be in specified locations. This meant benefactors could see for themselves the benefits of their donations. 'We try to get the donors more involved,' he said. He said, however, it had been a challenge to source culturally relevant Chinese-language children's books as many on the local market were translations of western stories. 'They say things like, 'After school I went into our garden and played with my brother on our swing set',' Mr Chen said. 'How many kids in Hong Kong have a garden, never mind their own swing set?'