Seven months ago, my friend Alex and I fundraised and hosted a trivia night to benefit the local Lao literacy organization, Big Brother Mouse. In the months that have followed, the $3000 that we earned, thanks to so many generous friends and family and Vientiane residents, has been making a difference behind the scenes.
In September and October, part of our donation funded two book parties in Luang Prabang province. At book parties, Big Brother Mouse staff trek out to villages, many of which have seen few, if any non-textbook literature, and teach the children about reading for pleasure through reading, writing, art, and other creative and educational activities. After the events are over the organization leaves each child a book, often the first he or she has ever owned, and sets up a “mini-library” in the village. Neither Alex nor I were able to attend our parties–he’s crossed the ocean back to grad school in the States (and is now a blog reader), and I was busy with Term 4 in Vientiane. Big Brother Mouse was kind enough to send photos so we could vicariously join in.
This past week, the last part of our donation arrived in the mail–copies of the two newly-published books we sponsored, hot off the presses: Dinosaurs and Polar Bear Goes to Laos. Both of these kid-sized and colorful books will be available at the Big Brother Mouse shops in Vientiane and Luang Prabang, as well as anywhere else Big Brother Mouse books are sold (including, but not limited to, the night markets in both cities, and Monument Books). The smaller book, Polar Bear Goes to Laos (Mi Khao Tiao Lao), has been particularly fun for me to read. It is a simple phonics book, written all in Lao, to help teach the Lao alphabet and its sounds to children, by using funny rhymes (think Dr. Seuss). Since I too, am learning the Lao language, I find the simple rhymes and illustrations a great way to build my vocabulary and practice pronunciation. Below, one of my favorite pages:
Mi kin mi…mi wao wa “mi mi ni di eely!”
That rough transliteration (the way things are often officially transliterated, the way I would do it based on how it’s pronounced and the actual phonetics of the English alphabet, and the way that people transliterate Lao day to day in “karaoke text” for messaging and Facebook are usually not the same) says: The bear eats noodles…the bear says “there are noodles here that are really good!” But how much more fun does that sound in Lao, when it rhymes?!