Story by: Murni Hoeng
Remember our Mobile Library programme? We brought you the fresh update all the way from Mae Hong Son! If you kind of forget it already, please read our "Bring books to children in remote areas" blog.
It was almost noon when the Mobile Library arrived at Hui Shan School, Mueang district, Mae Hong Son. All the students, of Lahu ethnicity, were getting ready for lunch. It was noodle soup prepared by the more senior students early in the morning. Our two animators too took this opportunity to have their meal and rest after 2.5 hour drive the winding road across mountainous terrain of northern Thailand.
A grade-6 girl peeked through the door of the teacher room and assessed the situation before confidently asked us if she could access the books in the mobile library van. Upon hearing a yes, she rushed out and with her other classmates began exploring the shelves picking one or two storybooks to read. Next, she sat down on a shaded ledge at the school yard and started her reading journey. It was mobile library’s 5th visit at the school and children’s reaction when they saw books and the mobile library were almost spontaneous. YES! This was what we were aiming to achieve when we first had this programme in mind: that children develop a love for reading! A camera-shy boy, Kajornwit, even told me he read a total of six books that day and his favourite was The Golden Fish.
The view from the teacher room.
Lahu girls and books of their choices.
Animator, Khun Yai, and his engaging ice-breaking game.
Curious young readers.
Choose the books from the mobile library van.
I could understand why both the teachers and students were so enthusiastic about the mobile library programme. Mr. Pornchai Udompanich, the director of Mae Hong Son Education Service Area 1 mentioned how this reading programme have helped to boost children’s confidence and self-esteem as they participated in the reading activities prepared by the animators. As for the teachers in the school, mobile library was such a great educational support. They have been trying to promote reading in the school by setting some time after lunch for reading activities, but even such a simple exercise can be challenging with limited reading materials. Mr. Anusorn Chatchawarnlerkchai, the teacher showed me the school library and I was disheartened to see that there were only old and dusty textbooks. Clearly, the place was not conducive for reading.
On the other hand, Huay Ma Buab School in Khun Yuam district, Mae Hong Son, was luckier as they received a donation to build a pretty decent school library a few years ago. Even so, the collection of books was never updated and the children said they had read most of them. With mobile library, these children had access to at least 1,200 new books plus the engaging reading activities delivered by the animators.
It was drizzling that day, so we stayed inside the school library. The animator, Khun Sorn, got all the children – of the Karen ethnic – to sit in circle. One by one, children read out loud the book of their choices to the fellow schoolmates. When Napasorn (the only Grade-1 student in the school) struggled with reading Thai script, two older children Taksaorn and Chuthatip stepped in to help. Paired reading technique had been identified to be effective to improve reading fluency. Children also learnt new vocabularies through reading the storybooks. I myself learnt two Karen expressions, Ke-ne for bee and Phong for flower while trying to explain their meanings to younger readers. I’m sure they benefited from the visit as well.
Napasorn and her two friends.
Khun Sorn briefed children on how to take care of library books before letting them accessing it.
PISA test administered at 15-year old youth revealed that those who were frequent readers scored higher. Thus reading, especially practiced since the early years, is the ingredient for achieving academic success. Mobile Library programme becomes particularly important in a place like Mae Hong Son which the students constantly perform below the national average.
With three vans in operation currently, around 40 schools and 850 children were visited regularly. Mobile library services were accessed over 4,500 times and at least 1,100 books were borrowed in the past 6 months in Mae Lae Noi, Mae, and Sop Moei districts alone. Children have been bringing the books home and reading them to their parents and siblings in the evening. It was a great family bonding opportunity and really a simple way to get parents – even the illiterate parents – to be involved in their children learning and literacy journey.
It has been one year since Mobile Library first brought the services to the hill tribe children. We have seen some results, but we will not stop improving and innovating. Wait for the next update from us!