A group in Laos has been using several innovative ways to deliver books and promote literacy across the country. Laos is a developing nation in Southeast Asia with a majority rural population.
As a publisher, Big Brother Mouse has published more than 300 children’s books since 2006 but it also organizes rural book parties, teacher training workshops, and literacy sessions to improve the habit of reading among the Lao youth. It also receives book donations and distributes them in schools to build village libraries. To reach a remote location, the volunteers sometimes ride on an elephant ‘staff member’ named Boom-Boom to deliver the books to rural kids.
The group was established to provide “books that make literacy fun!” The name Big Brother is a translation of “Ai Nu Noi”, which in Lao culture signifies love and unity in a family. This principle has guided Big Brother Mouse which identifies itself as a publisher, book distributor, and a volunteer organization:
We're not just a publisher. We give hands-on experience to young people as they learn new skills. We're also developing effective new ways to distribute books in a country where currently, there's no good system for that.
One of the popular activities organized by young volunteers of Big Brother Mouse is the rural book party where children are able to learn and read through games:
When we have a rural book party, or hold an art contest at a school, young Lao men and women lead the activities and make the presentations. Children discover that books can be fun. They also envision new possibilities for their own lives.
At book parties we read aloud, play games, sing songs about books, and give every child a book of their own, usually the first one they ever owned.
Teacher Jansaeng from the Nahai Village in Xayabuli Province affirms the effectiveness of book parties to inspire children to read:
Since the book party, many children like to read during their break. Attendance got better because students had books to read. Every day about 85% of students in the school read books. Also, now many more students are writing their own stories.
An important member of Big Brother Mouse is an elephant named Boom-Boom which means ‘books’ in the Lao language:
Boom-Boom became a part-time member of our staff, helping us get books into remote villages of Xayabuli Province. Kids have always been excited when Big Brother Mouse arrived in their village. They're even more excited when we arrive with an elephant. And our staff is thrilled that not only do they not have to carry all those books up mountains and over streams, but after they've dispersed some of the books that Boom-Boom carried early on each trip, they can sometimes get a free ride.
Below are some of the photos featuring the activities conducted by Big Brother Mouse across Laos:
To expand its programs, Big Brother Mouse is planning to build a ‘Discovery World and Learning Center’ on a three-hectare lot in the town of Luang Prabang.