Home-based reading rooms: We started our "Village Reading Room" experiments last August, with a group of 8 villages. We talk with the village headman and other leaders in the village to select one individual who is reliable and is motivated to help the village. We begin by providing that individual with 30 varied books, for all ages, along with suggestions about how to make them available, then provide support and more books during the year. From what we learned, we've expanded to another 24 villages. In January, 29 of the 32 volunteers came to Luang Prabang for a 2-day workshop to discuss how things were progressing, their successes and problems.
Follow-ups: We visited some Village Librarians, in their village, as part of our ongoing evaluations. Most were doing well. Some needed help to let everyone know that the books were available, or to create enthusiasm about reading. We've decided that a village "books and education" festival, when each reading room opens, will help, and during the summer (when we cannot do school book parties) we'll develop that idea. A greater problem, faced in every village, is that even when people got enthused about reading, they quickly ran out of new things to read. The only solution to that is what we're already doing as fast as we can: Develop and publish more books.
"Does anybody live on the moon?" That was the most common question we heard as we prepared our first book about the solar system and universe. It shows both that young people here are curious, and that they have no way to satisfy that curiosity. With the recent publication of What's in the Sky? and Inventions, we have a growing number books that help readers of all ages to learn about the world. These are more expensive than smaller children's books, so a special thank-you to the sponsors, the Global Fund for Children and Nick Hubbard, who made them possible.
Free books! Inside Laos, our books are priced so low that it's cheapest to buy copies if you can. But it will take time before we have thorough distribution throughout Laos, and shipments out of the country are difficult So we've posted PDFs of several books online. These can be used by emigrants who want their children to learn the language; anyone studying Lao; Lao speakers learning English; and teachers or organizations within Laos for whom this is the best way to get these books. On our menu, please click BOOKS, then DOWNLOADS.
Village festivals: We've decided that village reading rooms, like the libraries we set up in schools, will get off to a better start if we begin with a festival, that gets everyone excited about books, and let's them know what's available. This summer, we've developing ideas for these festivals, which will include games, traditional dance, short skits, and toys. And books, of course! But we've already got plenty of book pictures on these pages, so here are kids having fun with a new toy.
More Reading Rooms: A grant from Planet Wheeler, created by the founders of the Lonely Planet guidebooks to fund innovative grass-roots initiatives, will allow us to set up both village and home-based reading rooms in sixty more villages in the coming year. Thank you!
Lao fonts When we began publishing, the existing Lao font systems were difficult or impossible to use for publishing. So we created our own. After several requests, we've put together a package so that others can use it, too. Full information and downloads are on our new Lao Fonts page. (You can click here, or click Special Projects on our menu, and you'll see it listed.)
Archived News from 2006-2007.
The festive Hmong New Year celebration in mid-December gave Gikong, James, and Sy a chance to develop their reporting skills, collecting material for The Land of a Million Elephants, which the travel company Butterfield and Robinson is sponsoring so that people in Laos can learn about each province in the country. Here, James interviews three participants.
Forty-one village librarians came to Luang Prabang for a weekend workshop learn some new skills, and get more books. One focus of the event was to encourage reading aloud, both in the reading rooms, and within families.