Mobile library opens new chapter in children's education
Reading is essential for children if they are to rise up the education ladder but many of them are held back because so many schools don't have enough books, both in rural areas of Laos and towns.
But the National Library of Laos is determined to change that and to encourage more people to read, especially young children, and has introduced various projects to try to get children to read as much as possible.
The mobile library.
The Book Mobile is one of these projects and began in Vientiane in 1990. The project was supported by the government of Japan with the donation of two buses in 2000, which were furnished with bookshelves filled with exciting books intended for several age groups.
Twice a week the Book Mobile buses travel around schools in Vientiane that have no library, going to each of them twice a year.
Last month, Vientiane Times went along with one of the travelling libraries to Sangveuy Primary School in Sisattanak district.
We arrived there at 9:30am during break time. All of the children were out of class and waiting for us to arrive as they had been told that the Book Mobile was coming.
The children were first asked to sing songs together, then the staff read stories to them from the books they had brought. The children were invited to read any of the books in the bus and to select one that appealed to them. Before the door was opened, teachers and library staff told the children how to obtain a book and what they should do to keep it clean.
It was quite clear that the children were very interested in the books even if they could not read very well. They were fascinated by the illustrations and the colours and asked some of the older children to read to them.
Some of the students in years four and five could read very well. We could see in their eyes that they were very keen to choose a book and after finding one they read it in a very loud voice.
We put some mats in front of the bus under a big tree in the school field so that they could sit or lie down there to read, while others preferred to read in their classroom.
All too soon the bell rang to call the children to the next study period so they all got up and put their books back in a specially placed basket.
Some of the staff said they only allow the children to read during break time because they don't want to interrupt their lessons.
After class and before the children went home, teachers told them to come to school early the next morning if they wanted to read more books because the Mobile Library would be waiting for them.
In the meantime the books remained in the basket on the school field so that some of the children who had brought food to eat could read afterwards.
In an hour's time most of the students were sitting around in groups and reading together.
Unfortunately, there are always some children who are lazy and don't bother to read, not realising that reading is fundamental to furthering their education. This is something that the government and officials must change.
It is a widely held belief that Lao people do not like to read, but that is not always the case. When we see how greedily schoolchildren fall on storybooks and absorb the contents, then we can be convinced of the contrary. We have previously reported on similar projects in Luang Prabang, Champassak, Khammuan and Bokeo provinces.
Children want to read stories. Stories stimulate their imagination and open up horizons for their future life. Children just need more access to books. If they can be stimulated at an early age, then in the future it will be possible to say that Lao children like to read very much.
By Patithin Phetmeuangphuan
(Latest Update March 11 , 2017 )