Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Liz holds a book while a girl and her sisters read aloud in Lao. The donated books are the first they ever owned.
Thanks to libraries, caring parents, and Barnes & Noble, people take books for granted. But not everyone has that luxury.

In Laos, where the literacy rate is one of the lowest in Asia (68%), many children have never even seen a book, much less owned one.

We joined up with a local nonprofit here called Big Brother Mouse in its mission to help address this disturbing issue.

As mentioned in a previous post (Speaking English with Monks), Big Brother Mouse creates and publishes children's books in Lao and English. The organization then seeks out travelers visiting remote areas in the country to help distribute the books. 

Before leaving Luang Prabang, we took a big stack of the group's publications with us. We weren't exactly sure where we were headed or to whom we'd give the books, but the folks at Big Brother Mouse assured us we would find the right opportunity. They were so right. 

A father reads to his daughter and some kids he invited over from neighbors' homes. 
We were an hour's scooter ride into the hills that surround Phonsovan in north central Laos. We had come to learn about and meet modern day victims injured by unexploded ordinance, aka, bombs that didn't go off, leftover from the days of the Vietnam war, when the United States made Laos the most bombed country per capita in the world. 

What we found, in addition to the tragic stories of the victims (more on that in another update, hopefully), were children--and their parents--eager to get their hands on books they could call their own. 
Parents and kids alike got excited about the books. A mom reads from one of the donated books.

While hesitant and terribly shy at first, the kids soon began to line up to get their book. As soon as they had one in their hands, they would gather around to read to each other (and to Liz). 

Even more eye-opening was the behavior of the adults. One father sat in a hammock and read to his kids. Another sat and read to herself as if she were holding a bestseller. 

Books simply don't make it to some places in Laos. It was a touching, if not educational moment, especially for us. All four of our parents were teachers at one time. We were lucky--not only did they teach us to read, but they also taught us the value of a book. 

To learn more or support Big Brother Mouse, visit www.bigbrothermouse.com

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for reading and commenting!