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 but for most, school means repeating what the teacher says in hopes of remembering it for the test. Few Lao people think that reading can be fun, that education can be exciting, or that schools should help children learn to be creative, to ask questions, and to solve problems.
Big Brother Mouse is changing that. This education project was started by a retired American publisher working with several bright and dedicated Laotian college students. To make reading fun, 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.
Our school, Big Sister Mouse, has students ranging in age from 3 to 23. We emphasize hands-on learning, problem-solving, and, of course, encouraging a love of reading. The young adult students 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 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. Today, per-capita income in Laos about five times as much as it was then, so we ask that villages pay part of the cost of the reading program in their school. Donors helped us with school construction, but parents pay an affordable tuition fee which covers our day-to-day costs.
We are based in Laos. All planning and decisions are made here in Laos, based on and adapting to the conditions we face. All of our paid staff are Lao.
Stay up-to-date: Every month or two, 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