Not long ago, everyone said "Lao people don't read."
We publish high-quality books that people are eager to read, and we get those books to readers who typically never had books before.
Since 2006 we've published more than 370 books. Our first books were for young children, just learning to read. Now we've published on a wide variety of subjects, from women's health to the countries of ASEAN, from traditional fairy tales to the diary of Anne Frank.
Traditional Lao fairy tales are the most popular books, with all ages. These stories help new readers develop their reading skills. Then they get enthusiastic about other books too, because a top priority for us is to publish books that people are eager to read. Children have enjoyed our nature series, with books about life in the sea, insects, and (of course) dinosaurs. Older readers eagerly share a Lao cookbook, the first they've ever seen. More about Books we've published.
Silent reading program
Reading is fun. It improves general communication skills, as well as reading skills. Books can help us improve our health, get better jobs, and see how other countries have solved the challenges that we face - or what happened if they didn't.
As we travel to schools in Laos, we start a program of daily reading. We leave enough books in each classroom for them to read every day. Most of these schools had no books at all that children could read for enjoyment, until Big Brother Mouse came. More about Silent reading.
After we published our first books, the next question was: How do we get them to children? Book parties evolved as the answer. 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.
Sonesoulilat was just 16 when he organized our first book party. In this photo, he tells an audience-participation story. Now he organizes more than one hundred book parties in a busy month. You can see many more in our Photo Album. More about School book parties.
Does it all actually make any difference?
During our first years, we concentrated on making more books that children were eager to read, and getting them into schools and villages. Then we set up daily reading programs in schools, and now we're measuring their impact.
In September and early October 2014 we measured reading skills in all 5 grades of 45 primary schools. Some got the reading program; some did not. Seven months later we went back and tested again. In schools that had the daily reading, students' reading skills improved 39% more than at those that did not. Details of this study are available as a PDF, please click for Evaluation Report: Sustained Silent Reading in Laos.
Today's teachers didn't grow up with appealing books. Some had a few worn textbooks to share with classmates; others had nothing except a teacher with a blackboard. So they don't naturally have experience using books in class. When we set up the daily reading program, with also talk with teachers about how to use books in the classroom, and we've produced materials to help teachers think about ways to use books in the classroom. More about Teacher training.