Alex and I first became acquainted with the organization on trips to the northern city of Luang Prabang, where the organization is based. Big Brother Mouse describes itself as a “literacy project.” In rural villages all over the country, people have very little access to books, and, as a result, children often do not develop an interest in reading, nor do they develop the skills to become proficient readers. Big Brother Mouse finds local writers and artists to publish simple, bilingual (Lao-English) books that can then be distributed in villages, as well as some international literature and creative Lao-only children’s books. Through their books, which range from whimsical (e.g., “Polar Bear Comes to Laos”), to cultural (e.g., “Aijethai and Other Traditional Stories”), to informative (e.g,“Women’s Health”) in topic, they strive to educate, encourage creativity, and foster a love of reading.
Having taught English in this country for the past year, the need for this organization is clear. Many of my students have told me outright that “Lao people don’t like to read.” Although there must be many reasons for this, one reason is likely that there isn’t a good variety of interesting books to read. As English speakers, we take for granted just how much information is available to us—there are books and stories written in English on any imaginable subject and quite a few others that have been published in translation. We have access to an enormous quantity of information and a wide variety of perspectives. This is simply not the case for the average Lao speaker, and it’s even truer for children born speaking ethnic languages. Big Brother Mouse thus makes creative and interesting information available in the Lao language, while simultaneously raising awareness and knowledge of English.
But perhaps even more importantly, starting a child reading at a young age and exposing them to creativity has the possibility to change the way that child thinks forever. Lao schools emphasize learning through rote memorization and place no value on critical or independent thinking. The result of this is that many students in elementary schools don’t have the ability to be imaginative. By the time students are at the university level, plagiarism, even on things as important as theses, is widespread and tolerated. Many students have an underdeveloped ability to think critically and creatively to solve problems. Encouraging creativity at a young age is one way to begin to get to the root of this issue.
Big Brother Mouse relies almost solely on outside donations to publish their books. They have a list of books that have been written and illustrated but are sitting around waiting for sponsorship to be published. In addition, the supply of a number of previously published books is running low, and these will also need sponsors before second editions can be reprinted.
Our goal is to raise at least $2000. This will allow us to publish a new book and to sponsor a book party and mini-library in a village as well. Trivia Nights have become a popular activity among the community of foreigners living and working in Vientiane, so we are planning such an event to raise money here by selling tickets for entry, drinks, and raffle tickets for various prizes.
Although you may not be able to attend our event (although spontaneous flights to Asia are certainly welcome), you can still help us raise money for this project by clicking on the Donate button below and making a contribution. We would be happy to receive any amount! All contributions will bring us closer to reaching our goal of providing a supply of new books to be sold and distributed in parts of the country which remain greatly in need.
Donations should be made by August 6th, and they are tax-deductible. We will channel your money directly to the Lao Literacy Project, which was created to fund Big Brother Mouse as a tax-exempt 501-3-c organization in the United States. A receipt for your donation will be emailed to you through PayPal.
We sincerely appreciate your support.
Hannah and Alex