Pascale tells Why my family and I sponsored books in Laos.
Traditionally, books have been rare in Laos. The number of children who go to school has increased, yet many children have never read a book other than a textbook. Few Lao people think that reading can be fun, can add to their education, or will provide information to improve their quality of life.
Indeed, in the past, it couldn't do any of those things. Very few books were published in Laos, and they never reached the villages where most people lived.
Big Brother Mouse is changing that. This publishing project was started by a retired American publisher working with several bright and dedicated Laotian college students. Our staff now includes high school students and young adults. Together, we look at the books that children have enjoyed in other parts of the world. We think about what underlying concepts made those books successful. Then we ask if those concepts could be used in Laos, with new Lao content and pictures.
We published our first books in 2006. Some are just in Lao; others are in both Lao and English, making them useful not only for our primary audience – Lao children – but also for people of any age, who speak either English or Lao, and are learning the other language.
More recently, we've become more directly involved in education. Our new school, Big Sister Mouse, has students ranging in age from pre-school to young adults. We emphasize hands-on learning, problem-solving, and of course, helping students develop a love of reading. The young adult students s learn ways to engage children and to get them excited about reading, math, and other topics, and children learn to read in just 4-8 months. The summer after first grade, many of our children were reading 200-page novels children's books, such as our Lao adaptation of The Wind in the Willows.
What's different about Big Brother Mouse?
Big Brother Mouse is not an NGO. It is a not-for-profit, Lao-owned project, with a Lao staff. We're helping young Laotians develop new skills, as we're moving to become a self-sufficient Lao publishing house and school.
We're not building dependency. When we started, we gave books to schools free. As the Lao economy grows, we're changing. Since 2014 we ask that where they can, villages pay part of the cost of the reading program in their school.
We evaluate the actual impact of what we do. These evaluations show that our books do improve reading skills; and have helped us strengthen our program. Details of our study are available as a PDF, please click for Evaluation Report: Sustained Silent Reading in Laos).
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.
We are based in Laos. All planning and decisions are made here in Laos, based on and often adapting to the conditions we face. All of our paid staff are Lao.
We're getting things done. That's not easy, in a country where infrastructure is still often lacking. Please visit our Photo Album to see just a sampling of the thousands of events we've held, so that rural children in Laos can own their very first book.
Stay up-to-date: About six times a year we email a newsletter to supporters and others interested in our activities, tell about our latest projects and progress (or roadblocks!), problems, ideas, staff, and anything else of interest. We do not send rent, sell, or provide our email list to anyone else. You can sign up for the newsletter on our home page or the "Contact Us" page.
The Story of Big Brother Mouse