Our mascot, a happy mouse

Sonesoulilat Vongsoulin

Innovator, songwriter, and gamemaster

Sone leading a song In 2006, at age 16, Sonesoulilat (nicknamed "Ai" or "Sone", which is pronounced Sawn) joined the staff of a new project called Big Brother Mouse. Two months later, when he organized a party at the Orphanage School on the outskirts of town, no one suspected that he was creating an idea that was new not only for Big Brother Mouse, but also for Laos, and as far as we know, had never been done anywhere: The school book party.

It worked! Within a year, Sone was organizing book parties at 50 schools a year. Showing a rare combination of both innovative and organizational skills, he added a new book party team every year for four years, training young people to conduct events, and arranging the complex logistics of getting to even the most rural schools, whether that means a comfortable drive in a van, a bit of a hike, a boat trip, or finding an elephant that can help the team get through roadless territory. Soon we reached 200 schools in a single year, then 500, then 900... When we expanded, setting up daily reading programs (known as Sustained Silent Reading, or SSR) in classrooms, he handled that as well.

Sone has improved on some existing games, and invented a few of his own, which are described in his book Game Time! He's written several other books: What's in the Market? explains to visitors the unfamiliar foods and household items they might see in the market; Fun with Fruit which uses fun rhymes to tell about popular fruits; the beginning-reader book Black Mouse, White Mouse, and Traditional Toys which keeps an important part of Lao culture from being forgotten. His book The Joy of Reading encourages reading aloud, and tells why it's important; we use that same name for the project that he started, and runs, within Big Brother Mouse, to encourage reading in rural villages and schools.

Sone's ordination as a novice monkSone has also written two songs about books and reading, which kids sing enthusiastically at our parties. And while doing all all that, he attended night classes and finished University in 2012.

Sone was born in Phabathtri Village, Luang Prabang, in 1990. His parents are both Lao, but he has one Vietnamese and one Chinese grandparent. He feels fortunate to have grown up in Luang Prabang, where he had an opportunity to begin learning English while in primary school.

For six years, Sone studied at the Children's Cultural Center (C.C.C.) after school and on weekends. There, he learned about leading activities for children, writing stories, and story-telling. He was involved with a group at C.C.C. that produced a television program about drug abuse, and he wrote some of the material for that program. From that experience, Sone developed an interest in reading and writing.