A Pandemic Project
We initially launched our mobile library back in 2020 at the beginning stages of the pandemic. Since our students were no longer able to come to Anjali House – we thought we would go to them! We had 115 mobile library hours in 2020, accessing 815 children.
Covid began to spread in Cambodian communities in early 2021. W the increased restrictions and dangers in gathering in groups in 2021, we had to stop the program.
This initiative remained dear in our hearts as we wanted to continue to utilize our materials across our community.
And We Are Back Up and Running!
Thanks to the Women’s International Group in Phnom Penh, we have been able to restart our Mobile Library and purchase our own mobile library vehicle! The aim is to make this vehicle recognizable to create a sense of excitement when it is seen (imagine the ice cream truck!)
Upon hearing the news of our persistence in restarting this project, Judith’s Reading Room awarded us the inaugural Founder’s Award (read the news release here!) at the 2022 Freedom Through Literacy Awards.
Why a mobile library?
The world of books can be a magical place. It can open new worlds to children. They can experience different cultures, understand experiences from different viewpoints, and even experience a variety of emotions within the pages.
Reading with children can create a love for reading for life. Even in the early years, reading helps develop a more extensive vocabulary as they are exposed to new words in context, even if they don’t quite understand the meaning of that exact word. Meanwhile, their imagination and creativity are activated to picture the events in the story and what comes next.
These days, it is uncommon to see a child pick up a book to entertain themselves. Rather, they turn to smartphones and other electronic devices. In Cambodia, even fewer because they don’t often have access to books.
Siem Reap is continually developing. Siem Reap Bannalay recently opened (an amazing project in which, Marion, a previous volunteer at Anjali House was one of the drivers!). However, many parent work 7 days a week and are unable to bring their children. This is why we bring the library to them!
Similarly, not all villages in our commune know who we are and what we do. Our mobile library is a way to further integrate into our community. They can learn about what services we offer, and how we provide a safe place to come if help is needed. While we don’t always have the answers directly, we can match the need with one of our partners that offer these services.
We can use this platform to not only read and spread a love of books but also disseminate information to our community. Prior to closing the mobile library in 2020, we also used this time to educate children and their families about the importance of sanitization and handwashing to minimize the risk of catching Covid.
We work closely with the Commune Chief, who helps connect us to the village leaders to arrange the mobile library trips. The village chief helps us gather the children to attend on that day.
Take a Trip With Us
Cambodia rises early. We take advantage of the slightly cooler morning hours to pack up the equipment and head out to the village we have arranged to visit.
The books, chairs, and mats are laid out for when the children arrive. They can browse books in English and Khmer and pick whatever interests them. They read by themselves. Those that cannot read along with one of the Future Leaders.
Next, it’s group reading time! The Future Leaders present a story. The children listen and imagine the story. As it finishes, they engage the children by asking comprehension questions and discussion questions.
After so much sitting, it is time for some movement! Game time! The game changes with every outing. Sometimes it is a guessing game like charades. Other times, it is a more active game similar to duck duck goose.
Then we say, “See you next time!” and head back to Anjali House. Eit, a Future Leader student says “I feel happy and enjoy with the Mobile Library because I want to have an experience and I want to improve my activities. I want to share with them about a story and my experiences”.
Sreyneang says“During the mobile library I feel so excited and so proud of my group. At first, it was very difficult because it is our first time but we can end very successful. And started from that day I can improve myself and I can stand and speak to a lot of people.”
Results So Far
We aim to make 48 mobile library trips this year, creating a rotation amongst the villages. We hope to have some students return. Eventually, we hope to create a library check-out program where the students can gain a library card and come rent and return books at our library!