How do you improve health in a rural village?
Good Nutrition for Mother and Baby was among the books that we gave to 4th and 5th grade classes for our new daily reading program. This new book delivers clear information using lots of photos. That was an experiment: Would children in grades 4 and 5 be interested in such a book?
Many were. (And many could not read even this simple Lao text; that's one reason for the reading program.) On her first day of reading, this girl chose "Good Nutrition" rather than a fairy tale, as the book she wanted to read.
The organization "Save the Children" provided financial support for "Good Nutrition for Mother and Baby," as well as creating the text and pictures. Thank you!
First day of a reading habit!
Lao children select a book to enjoy, for the first day of a daily reading program at their school. Scenes like this have taken place at more than 300 rural schools since early September, when we started "Sustained Silent Reading" programs in village schools.
Previously, most of these schools had absolutely no books that children could read for enjoyment. Now, every classroom has a set. For $70 you can sponsor a classroom reading program this year; $350 sponsors an entire school. You can donate at http://www.bigbrothermouse.com/donate.html. Either way, we'll send you photos and a report after the event.
"Reading makes me happy," 9-year-old Khamla told us, holding the second book she's ever owned. That one was Animals of Africa; the first was a Buddhist folktale. She's quoted in a Thai newspaper, which contrasts the low reading levels in Thailand with the enthusiasm for books that Big Brother Mouse is creating in Laos.
Khamla isn't the only one who likes the books. Her school's headmaster, Phoonsook, believes it's important for students to develop reading habits. "These children are from poor families, but now they have books to read and learn about the world. Their reading skills have already improved a lot," he says.
You can read the full story here in the
Bangkok Post. (This photo shows children enjoying their new books from Big Brother Mouse.)
Monday, 16 Sept., marked a particularly exciting day: That's when we first introduced a daily reading program (known as "Sustained Silent Reading" in education circles) at primary schools in Laos.
This photo was taken in Kasi district, where we visited and set up programs at 26 schools in September. We're continuing the program there, and in other districts. Most schools reported that they had no library and no books at all, except textbooks, until Big Brother Mouse came. Not surprisingly, reading skills were weak: Many third-graders could not read a single word. They had never read a book for fun. Now they'll get practice. More important, they'll learn that reading is fun.
Our book party teams spend much of their time on the road, typically visiting 2 schools a day during the school year. It's satisfying but tiring. This summer, they'll stay in Luang Prabang for a month of "The Mouse Experience," made possible with support from the Global Fund for Children.
That's our name for the variety of activities that constitute education in its broadest sense. It's their opportunity to benefit from experiences that are part of growing up for children in developed countries, but not here. They make puppets and put on a puppet show; play board games; and do science experiments. Here they're revising our widely used booklet for teachers, Using Books in School.
After early May, schools get busy with end-of-the-year activities and we can't hold school book parties. But the 5 travel teams are still eager to get kids reading. So they travel to rural villages where we've set up reading rooms, and engage children in reading and other activities.
Here, Sone reads aloud from The Nose Book to children in Sopcham village. Our teams also introduce board games, make items described in our book Traditional Toys, and teach children how to read aloud with others.
Congratulations to Pom (Southida), a long-time member of our book party team, who was voted Staff Person of the Year by other team members.
As a result, she'll join 3 others for a very special trip to Bangkok, which combines several days of fun and sightseeing, plus selecting books to bring back for our library. (Thai and Lao are closely related languages; with some practice, Lao people can learn to read Thai, and thus have access to a vastly wider selection of reading material.) The group will also visit some museums and interactive learning centers, to get new ideas for our work here.
"Why does Indonesia have so many pieces?"
Jigsaw maps are the newest addition to our Discovery Days. And please note that we made separate pieces only for the biggest islands of Indonesia, otherwise the puzzle would never get completed.
Discovery Days give offer an opportunity for fun and hands-on learning. Teachers see new ways to get students excited about a subject. Young people have fun – and the next time they hear "Indonesia is a big country," they can reply, with feeling, "It sure is!"
We took our Discovery Days to Vientiane this month: 4 days at high schools on the outskirts of town, followed by a weekend event in the center of town. More than 4,000 attendees discovered that learning can be fun.
At each high school, we left 280 books for their library, if they had one. If they did not, we discussed with them how they could set up a simple library, in one case based in the main office and open at certain times for students to borrow books.
Archived News from 2006-2007.
"We need very easy books that capture children's attention."
That's what UNICEF told us, when we were first getting started. The Big Chicken uses a limited number of simple vowels, introducing each one and using for several pages before moving to the next ... and it does so in the context of a fun, suspenseful story: Just why is that chicken so big? (Spoiler alert!) It's big because there are 10 chicks inside, who finally emerge one by one.
We're ready to print a small-format edition of this popular book, which children can choose from as their free book at the end of a book party. But first we need a sponsorship of just $900. Can you help? The Big Chicken tells more.