Bookshops stocked with novels and stationery are a common sight on the streets of Taiwan. But in Chiayi County, there''s one bookshop that''s not quite like the rest. Its reason for being is not to make money, but to change the lives of disadvantaged youths in the neighborhood. Besides books, it offers free tutoring, free meals, and even cash prizes to kids who improve their grades. Tonight in our Sunday special report, we drop in on this extraordinary establishment, to meet its founder and the kids whose lives it''s trying to change.

Fresh from bed and still drowsy, this little girl in a ponytail is Wen-ling, a third grader at Hsing-chung Elementary School in Chiayi. Every day, she wakes up at 6:10 to get ready for the day.

Wen-lin’s grandmother walks her and her sister to school, all while pushing a pram with their younger brother. It’s a long 6-kilometer trek that takes the family about an hour to complete. And that’s just one way.

After dropping off her two granddaughters at school, Ms. Yuan takes her grandson back home. That’s another 6 kilometers on foot. Ms. Yuan’s main source of income is collecting and selling recyclables. Through that, she’s singlehandedly raising her three grandchildren.

Although she works hard for little money, Ms. Yuan has no complaints. Her only wish in life is for her grandchildren to have an education. But these days, she’s particularly concerned about Wen-ling, who’s been bringing home poor report cards. Her school has diagnosed her with a reading disability, meaning she needs special counseling.

Yuan Fu-yuan

Wen-ling’s grandmother

Wen-ling is in a special needs class. She was doing badly in school, so she went into a special needs class. Originally I didn’t even know. Then her teacher told me, she wasn’t doing well on her exams.

Besides the special education at school, Wen-ling also attends an extracurricular one-on-one tutoring class in Minxiong Township.

The tutoring venue only offers classes at night. During the day, it’s a secondhand bookshop.

This man belting out a line of Tang poetry is Huang Chin-shan, the owner of the bookshop. As a child, he had to work the land every day, and his grades were among the lowest in his class. But that all changed when he was in eighth grade.

Huang Chin-shan

Secondhand bookshop founder

There was a teacher. I don’t know how, but she came to think that I was actually quite smart. She said, “Listen, teachers wear these nice clothes to class and they teach you things. Don’t you think I look pretty classy? Let me tell you, I make more money than your entire family gets from harvesting two to three chia of land.” I said, “Miss, is that true?” She said, “Yes, just ask your father.” So of course I decided I wanted to study.

Huang decided to throw himself into studying. He earned diploma after diploma, and eventually earned an MBA. He ended up making a salary of more than NT$1 million a year, as the head of an exhibition hall of the Taipei World Trade Center.

Huang Chin-shan

Secondhand bookshop founder

During the Taipei International Book Exhibition, the place would be packed full of people seeking knowledge. It was then that I thought, my hometown doesn’t even have a single bookshop.

Huang decided to open a secondhand bookshop in his native Minxiong Township. To get it up and running, he spent more than NT$2 million buying all sorts of secondhand books from stores at Guanghua Digital Plaza. Every underprivileged child who came to his store was offered a book, free of cost.

Huang Chin-shan

Secondhand bookshop founder

One and half months after opening, the shopkeeper gave me a call. She said, “We’ve been open for one and a half months and only seven or eight people have come in to pick up a free book.” I thought, “I spent millions on this, and it’s not working?”

Giving out free books did not kindle an interest in learning among the local children. Huang racked his brains for a new idea. He came up with something that proved irresistible.

Huang Chin-shan

Secondhand bookshop founder

I said, “Starting today, any disadvantaged students will get NT$100 on top of their free book so they can take the bus back home.” And wow did that fill up the shop.

Huang’s bookshop immediately began attracting a crowd. But just as he was ready to give himself a pat on the back, the mother of one of his young patrons told him something that came as a huge blow.

Huang Chin-shan

Secondhand bookshop founder

She said, “Next time, could we just get the NT$100 and not take the book?” She said “Every time, each kid brings back five or six books. They bring back five or six books that end up in a pile unread.” My approach wasn’t working. I was mistaken.

Huang realized that without