by Wu Xiaoxiao
MELBOURNE, July 15 (Xinhua) -- A recent Fairfax Media survey showed that the number of Mandarin speakers in Melbourne rose dramatically from about 60,000 to 100,000 in just a little over a decade from 2001, making Mandarin the second-most spoken foreign language in Melbourne's inner city areas.
Statistics from the Australian Education Department also showed that Mandarin is now the fourth-most popular language in the nation.
Approximately 80 percent of primary school students in the state of Victoria chose to learn Chinese within two years.
However, when some new arrivals want to find good Chinese books to maintain their reading taste they had to face the scanty Chinese books found in local libraries.
This has prompted a group of five enterprising Chinese children from four families, who are all new migrants and book lovers from Beijing, to set up a non-profit community Chinese book-sharing workshop in Melbourne.
The Little Kangaroo Charity, which was set up on World Book and Copyright Day last April, officially opened in May and is now offering a wide variety of Chinese books to the general public.
Wang Yuyao (Sabrina), a 15 year-old girl ninth-grader in a local secondary school, is the leader of the charity council, which consists of five children aged between six years old and 15 years old.
Sabrina has lived in Melbourne with her family less than one year but she did not find it difficult to blend into the city's multiculturalism. "But besides improving my English study, I still want to maintain my Chinese-reading habit since I'm a bookworm since my childhood," she said.
Wang Huang (Tiger), nearly seven year-old, who is Yuyao's little brother, is also a council member of the charity. He said that their charity accepts book donations and it is his job to record them in the computer system.
Initially, the idea of putting up a library came about during casual conversations among the children's parents who hoped that the younger generation of children with Chinese ancestry could speak and write well in both Mandarin and English.
The library was set up mainly by Yuyao and other children, with the support of their parents and friends. "The kids have their own ideas to operate the library. We're happy to see them show their responsibilities and creativities, and we respect that," said Yuyao's mother.
Around 500 books have already been displayed in the library's bookshelves and these include children's picture books, pop education books and other general books, which were donated both by local Chinese families and people in China.
Yuyao told Xinhua that they have two donation stops in Beijing and Shanghai and about 200 kilograms of books in ten parcels are now on its way from Beijing to Australia.
Besides promoting the Chinese high-tech platform, including Sina Blog, Chinese tweets Weibo, and Chinese mobile communication service Wechat, the library also has its official Facebook account.
According to Yuyao, in addition to its normal function as a library, Little Kangaroo Charity also produces several kinds of events including story-telling sessions and children's drama and weekly seminar workshops all geared to entice young children to nurture their passion for books and other publications in Mandarin.