When travelling overseas I always try to pick up a book or two from that country, it helps to get the feel of the culture and people that live there. I was recently in Laos a beautiful green gentle place in the north village of Luang Prabang and picked up a book of traditional stories at the airport before I left Laos. There are not a great variety of books in Laos especially in the more remote villages like Luang Prabang and what are there, have been written by the Lao people, in their own language and printed with the help of sponsorship from people around the world. Many children have never seen a book and have no idea how it works.
A publishing house known as Big Brother Mouse was started up back around 2006, by a retired American. And by 2010 more than 85,000 rural Lao children received the first book they had ever seen. Some remote areas are only attainable by elephant. Since I didn’t actually get to read this book fully until I got home, I was unaware that the publishing house was only around the corner from my hotel. Had I known, I would love to have not only visited, but spent a day holding a book party in a remote village with the aid of locals, and bought some books to hand out, read, and play games with the children. They often hold book parties to help introduce books for fun to children, who would otherwise never get the opportunity to read and enjoy written stories, thanks to sponsorship from outside the country.
“Aijethai and other traditional stories from Laos” is produced by Siphone Vouthisukdy and illusrated by Sengxay Sawan in 2009 with translations by Sioubon Mekonsy and Souphaphaeng Dangmany, over 48 pages in paperback. The illustrations are painted and the text is split in Lao and English. This book was made possible by Lin Palmer of England, and it is noted on the inside cover. While the book is, I felt, more suited to 7 years and up each endearing story is summed up with a moral.
The first story about a boy named Aijethai who won the heart of a princess after forgiving his parents for leaving him in the forest as he ate so much , he also did not kill the giant he was later sent to kill. The moral “Goodness wins over everything”
Another story about a young boy who respected all the elderly including a white elephant was inturn helped by the white elephant when he and his father became caught in the forest. When the white elephant was caught by solders, he attacked and killed, the boy intern asked for the respect of the white elephant. The moral “A calm temper can pacify a bad one.”
Other morals are “Love triumphs over Hate,” “Honesty and Perseverance will Prevail over Betrayal and Greed,” and “Goodness and sincerity cannot be bought, but with them, anything is possible.” All teach children the value of kindness and respect.
We plan to visit Luang Prabang in about three years time, in the hope of attending a book party, (even on the back of an elephant if necessary), the joy of reading stories, and seeing the wonder on each small face as they learn to turn a page, it would be worth the long flight.
If your interested in sponsoring, visiting, want to send books, or simply to know more, check out their very creative and informative website at: http://www.bigbrothermouse.com/index.html
Oh my, what a lovely and extraodinary post. I found the books of interest and am not surprised with the emphasis on virtues/values. It was so interesting you were so near the publisher and could have visited. What a wonderful idea to hold a book party. I am glad you’ll be returning and have contacted Big Brother Mouse. You can do a lot in three years — planning and preparing. Thank you for sharing the link.
Yes I hope to return in about 3 years, early if possible.
Have also just sent off an email to them, oh if only I had read the book before leaving Luang Prabang. *kicks self*
Just thoroughly looked at the site. The work they are doing is important. It would be lovely to do something. I hope you make this information available everywhere you can. Have you communicated with them by e-mail? Oh how I wish you could have visited. Wish you could get big group to support. You might start with SCBWI in NZ — since I saw many donors from NZ and Austrailia. I will give it some thought about how I can promote — perhaps through churches etc. It is remarkable that children have never seen a book.
Yes it is an amazing website. You have already read my mind….emails already sent. Thanks for your comments Pat.
This is one of my favorite posts of yours so far, Diane. What is the literacy rate like in Laos? I imagine they have some wonderful oral stories, but having access to literature in one’s own tongue is such a gift. I love your plans to return and contribute in 3 years time, and as Pat says, maybe you could work towards a group of SCBWIers doing something. Thank you for sharing this with us.
Thankyou so much Joanna for your comments.
It is hard to get an exact reading on literacy rate (naturally), but according to NSC Lao PDR, 73 persons out of 100 were literate according to 2005 census. Men are more literate than woman. From the age of 6 literacy is highest, tapering off as the need to leave school earlier is on the increase. There are also huge differences in ethnic groups with some in remote rural areas having nearly no access to education. Education definately plays a big part with only 26% in 2005 not gotten any education, down from 46% in 1995. This is where “BigBrotherMouse” is helping, getting into areas unaccessible, as no road or river. Getting reading material, even for fun, into the hands of the young is very important and I was hugely impressed by what this small publishing group are doing.
Thanks again Joanna, so pleased you enjoyed this post.
We really do take for granted the fact that our children (or most of them) are within reach of a public library, and some also have parents like me who love books so much we ensure our children have a broad selection to grow up with. Thank you for pointing out how lucky we really are, and for highlighting such a valuable initiative. It certainly sounds like they deserve our support!
Thankyou so much Adina for stopping by. So please you find this post interesting. I hope that if possible some authors will get together and sponsor a book party for some children over there. It would be wonderful and so rewarding. Thanks again for taking time to visit, look forward to hearing from you again.