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Plan to recycle schoolbooks gets mixed reception
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Chinese parents may have to stop urging their children to read not only with their eyes but also their hands, as they have done for years by relating how Chairman Mao wrote thoughtful comments in the margins of the numerous books he read.

That's because many provinces, including Jiangsu, Shandong, Shanxi and Fujian, launched a textbook recycling campaign with the new semester that aims to cut paper use and raise students' awareness of preservation. If all the textbooks in China are reused for five years, the country can save an estimated 225 billion yuan (31 billion U.S. dollars).

Under the program, primary and secondary schools distributed textbooks to students free of charge. The books will be collected at the end of the term for use by future students, so the books need to be kept in good condition.

New textbooks each term has been the routine for most Chinese students for decades, especially in the comparatively prosperous coastal provinces. Many grandmothers have followed the ritual of making book covers for their beloved grandsons and granddaughters, who come home with their school bags full of new textbooks on the first day of a new semester.

At least some students seemed receptive to the change. "I like the idea of recycling my textbooks and I will do my best to keep my books as new as possible," said Zhang Muge, a Grade Two student in the Primary School Affiliated to Tianjin Normal University in Tianjin Municipality.

But parents were less enthusiastic, with some voicing concerns over cleanliness. "Recycled books may carry harmful germs from previous users," contended a father in southeastern Fuzhou City. "I prefer to pay for the new textbooks since they are not that expensive."

Teachers also complained that recycling could deprive students of the chance to jot down thoughts in the margins of textbooks, just as Mao did. "Their thoughts may be gone before they can fumble out a piece of paper," a science teacher surnamed Xue said.

(Xinhua News Agency February 28, 2008)

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