Video of homeless South African – the 'Pavement Bookworm' – goes viral

Philani Dladla sells, reviews, and gives away books to children, despite living on the streets.

Late last year, South African independent filmmaker Tebego Malope discovered an unusual charater living on the streets of Johannesburg. Intrigued, he filmed a short interview with the man and posted it on YouTube. It has since gone viral.

The interview subject was Philani Dladla, a 24-year-old homeless man who earns money in an unconventional way – by reviewing and selling books on the streets of Johannesburg.

According to Malope's YouTube video description, "He [Dladla] basically bounces around different streets with his expansive library of books and at anybodies request reviews the books. He has read all the books in his collection and is always seeking for more to read. He then sells some of his books as a way to raise money for himself and some of his homeless friends." 

Malope calls Dladla the "Pavement Bookworm."

The Huffington Post says that Dladla recommends books to anyone who's interested in "impromptu book club sessions," during which he discusses and recommends various books in his collection. If anyone shows interest in a particular book, Dladla offers it for sale.

According to SA People News, Dladla says that reading saved him from drug addiction. He likes to give away books to children for free so that they, too, can get into the good habit of reading.

"Reading is not harmful. There’s no such thing as harmful knowledge," says Dlada in the online video interview. "[Reading] is only going to make you a better person."

Malope's video interview with the Pavement Bookworm has gone viral. According to SA People, motorists that used to pass the bookworm by are now stopping to have conversations with him and to get his book recommendations. Malope says in another Youtube description from December that Dlada has gotten interviews with various journalists and even a few job offers.

As Malope says in the first video's description: "[Dlada is] a great role model on the power of reading and can be an amazing ambassador for our young people."

If you would like to donate books to Philani Dladla, you can contact filmmaker Milani Tebogo on Facebook.

Weston Williams is a Monitor contributor.

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