Thanks to libraries, caring parents, and Barnes & Noble, people take books for granted. But not everyone has that luxury.
Liz holds a book while a girl and her sisters read aloud in Lao. The donated books are the first they ever owned.
In Laos, where the literacy rate is one of the lowest in Asia (68%), many children have never even seen a book, much less owned one.
We joined up with a local nonprofit here called Big Brother Mouse in its mission to help address this disturbing issue.
As mentioned in a previous post (Speaking English with Monks), Big Brother Mouse creates and publishes children's books in Lao and English. The organization then seeks out travelers visiting remote areas in the country to help distribute the books.
Before leaving Luang Prabang, we took a big stack of the group's publications with us. We weren't exactly sure where we were headed or to whom we'd give the books, but the folks at Big Brother Mouse assured us we would find the right opportunity. They were so right.
A father reads to his daughter and some kids he invited over from neighbors' homes.
While hesitant and terribly shy at first, the kids soon began to line up to get their book. As soon as they had one in their hands, they would gather around to read to each other (and to Liz).
Even more eye-opening was the behavior of the adults. One father sat in a hammock and read to his kids. Another sat and read to herself as if she were holding a bestseller.
Books simply don't make it to some places in Laos. It was a touching, if not educational moment, especially for us. All four of our parents were teachers at one time. We were lucky--not only did they teach us to read, but they also taught us the value of a book.
To learn more or support Big Brother Mouse, visit www.bigbrothermouse.com