Many children in Asia do not have access to engaging, colorful storybooks that inspire a lifelong love of reading. Often, school textbooks are often the only reading material available as children’s books are too expensive for the average family, especially in rural areas. Realizing this great need, Books for Asia is launching Let’s Read!, a project that uses low-cost technology to enable underprivileged children to attain the most essential of childhood experiences – the magic of becoming lost in a story.
The Cambodia Pilot Project
Let’s Read! will pilot a project in 5 schools and 2 mobile libraries in Cambodia serving low-income communities. Each site will be equipped with Android tablets on which a digital library app developed by our technology partner, Library for All, will provide access to picture books in Khmer (the local language) and English. After the pilot phase, we will scale the project in Cambodia and adapt Let’s Read! for roll out to other countries in Asia.
As children learn first and best in their mother tongue, we are curating a starter collection of 50 Khmer-language books comprised of some of the best children's books published in Cambodia. Few children's e-books exist so we are collaborating with Cambodian publishers to license and digitize their material. By participating in this project, the publishers will gain valuable experience working with e-books, receive digitized copies of their books, and have access to usage data. Since bilingual ability improves educational and employment opportunities, we are additionally supplying 50 English-language books.
How does the digital library work?
The digital library app created by Library for All was designed for developing country contexts where internet and electricity access is often limited. The app does not need internet access to be used, only to download additional books. Data and battery usage is minimal. And, the app interface is entirely in Khmer, allowing ease of use by Cambodian students and teachers.
The e-book collection will be used for weekly storytime sessions, reading festivals, and other related activities. The participating schools and mobile libraries will utilize the app's robust analytics to track student progress and provide individualized attention.
Is it too soon for a digital library?
Cambodia is a young population, with 60% under the age of 30. As smartphones and tablets become increasingly affordable, more and more people are accessing information from mobile devices. Until recently it was very difficult to render the Khmer language digitally so very few educational resources in Khmer are available online for children. To bridge this gap, we’ve worked closely with our tech partner to render Khmer storybooks. As a result, e-book donations now hold the promise of being a more cost-effective, scalable model than print books with their high print and transportation costs.
What have we done already?
Books for Asia staff on the ground have formed partnerships with two phenomenal Cambodian education organizations, Kampuchean Action for Primary Education (KAPE) and Sipar, who have the experience and know-how to successfully implement the digital library. They will work with their affiliated schools and libraries to develop fun reading programs and activities to bring the books alive. We’ve entered into licensing agreements with Khmer-language publishers already producing beautiful stories. And we’ve partnered with the Cambodian chapter of International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) to act as our a local content advisory board to ensure that the library’s collection responds to students’ needs.
Why support us?
Books for Asia's book donations to Cambodian schools and universities - more than 900,000 books since the program's inception in 1995 - have dramatically increased access to much need education resources. Our resident local staff have deep experience in local education and development issues, as well as close relationships with extraordinary local organizations.
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