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“Reading is not harmful. There’s no such thing as harmful knowledge. This thing is only going to make you a better person,” says Philani, an impressive 24-year-old homeless man in Johannesburg, South Africa, who chooses to engage with the community by reviewing books and that you can buy from him! He’s known as the Pavement Bookworm. His adoration of the written was inspired by his reading self-help books, which rescued him from drug addiction.

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Everyday, Philani takes his ever-changing library to a different corner and sets up an impromptu literary discussion group and bookshop. This helps him raise money for himself and his homeless friends. And not only that, Philani is spreading happiness and knowledge. It’s such a beautiful thing! And get this–his children’s books are free because “they can still take this reading thing and turn it into their habit, their life-long habit.”

Thanks to South African director, cinematographer and storyteller Tebogo Malope, we’ve been able to meet Philani’s acquaintance through possibly one of the most potent pieces he’s shot to date. Thanks to Malope’s video, people who had previously driven past Philani, are now stopping to talk to the Pavement Bookworm. He’s even had a visit from “Entanglement” author Steven Boykey Sidley who gave him his latest book! So who’s his favorite author? John Grisham because “he touches on social justice and I think that’s the one thing lacking in the world.”

He’s a great role model on the power of reading and can be an amazing ambassador for our young people,” Malope says. And that he is. It’s amazing the contributions people who have nothing to give, are able to give to the world. Philani is an inspiration and definitely what’s needed in the world.


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