This commitment builds upon Big Brother Mouse's established publishing business, and it involves traveling to each village to identify an individual who is committed to helping the village, interested in education and reading, and who other villages view as responsible. Big Brother Mouse will do so by talking to villagers, headman, and teachers. This person will be designated as a 'Bannahak ' (In English, this translates approximately as 'Junior Librarian' or 'volunteer librarian'.) Big Brother Mouse will provide a variety of books to this person, and train him/her in making books available by letting the books be read in his or her home, or borrowed. At first, the books will be primarily for children, with a mix of alphabet books, beginning readers, fiction, and non-fiction, with a few books for older readers. Within two years, Big Brother Mouse will have a much wider selection of books for all ages. The company currently distributes a few books from other publishers that appeal to the local community and would like to increase this as such books become available.
Additionally, Big Brother Mouse will arrange workshops and opportunities for the Bannahak to meet and exchange ideas with others from nearby villages.
At this time, most villages do not have the resources to pay for books or services such as this, and Big Brother Mouse will donate them. In the long run, as villagers see the benefits of the program, Big Brother Mouse believes that villages will need to develop ways to pay for such services so that they will not be dependent on aid, and Big Brother Mouse expects that they will gradually pay for a portion of the cost of the books.
There are about 11,000 villages in Laos. About 80% are rural; the others are administrative units within cities. The primary target is the rural villages, but Big Brother Mouse expects to also do this in the villages within cities. The company also believes it can establish this network over the course of 7 years.
Potentially this will affect 5.5 million people, about half of whom will be children under age 18. Big Brother Mouse's best estimate is that by the end of the commitment, 30% to 50% of people in a typical village will directly make use of this access to books and benefit from it.
- Travel to each village.
- Identify an individual to act as 'Junior Librarian'
- Provide a starter set of 30 books.
(It will typically take one or two days to visit a group of eight villages and get them set up.)
- After two-three months, bring together Junior Librarians from eight villages to discuss their experiences and problems, to get more books, and to help them overcome obstacles they've encountered.
- Continue with another visit, and another workshop, during the first year.
Big Brother Mouse staff will implement this commitment. Permission from the village headman is necessary, and based on the company's experiences, it can easily secure support from the village head for a project like this. Big Brother Mouse already works with the Ministry of Education and/or Ministry of Information and Culture in the provinces that Big Brother Mouse visits, and will continue to do so with this program.
Big Brother Mouse expects to reach the following target:
- Number of villages with a Junior Librarian: 400 in first year, 10,000 after 7 years
Currently, most people in Laos have no access at all to books except, possibly, to textbooks in schools. Books are not seen as a source of education outside of school, or of practical information (about health, agriculture, etc.). It is widely said, and believed, that 'Lao people don't read.' Big Brother Mouse's experience has shown that it is due to the fact that they have never had anything they wanted to read.
After two years of preparation, Big Brother Mouse began publishing books in 2006, with the goal to 'Make literacy fun!' All of the books are in Lao; some include English, and Big Brother Mouse is beginning to include Hmong and other minority languages in some titles. The company began with humorous alphabet books, traditional stories, and colorful, easy-to-read books. Big Brother Mouse has since expanded to include a wide range of subjects and books for all ages: from Buddhist fables to a Lao adaptation of 'The Wizard of Oz', from a simple book about baby care to a lengthier book about women's health; from the diary of Anne Frank to a book about the stars and galaxies. Feedback from both children and teachers shows that the company's books excite them. However, Laos has so few books that after getting enthused about reading, children (or adults) have read everything available after one or two months. So Big Brother Mouse remains focused on generating new books, as well as increasing their distribution.