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 is slowly but steadily increasing, yet many children have never read a book outside of school textbooks. 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 recent college graduates. Together, we look at the books that children have enjoyed most anywhere in 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.
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 build the foundations to become a self-sufficient Lao publishing house.
We're not building dependency. When we started, we gave books to schools free. As Laos develops, we're changing. In 2014 we've begun asking that most schools pay part of the cost of the reading program; we provide it free only in a minority of schools where that's not feasible.
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 2013-14 study are available as a PDF, please click for Evaluation Report: Sustained Silent Reading in Laos (12 pages) or for the Detailed Report (30 pages, with details about the tests and our methods).
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.
Annual Report: Please click this link to download our 2013 Annual Report.
The Story of Big Brother Mouse