In celebration of World Book Day, BEQUAL would like to shine the spotlight on two very dedicated caregivers from a remote Hmong village. Let’s read the story of Nou and Howa and discover how they created a reading corner for their children in their house.

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World Book Day, 23rd April, is a yearly event created by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to celebrate reading, publishing and copyright. Each year, organizations, universities, institutions, schools, communities, publishers and writers all around the world celebrate the day by reading and sharing books.

To celebrate the day, BEQUAL would like to share the inspiring story of Nou and Howa.

Nou and Howa live in a remote Hmong village, Vienghin in Nambak district, Luangprabang province. They are the proud parents of four children who study hard at school. Their oldest son is now in Grade 10, while their daughter is in grade 7, the second son in grade 5 and the youngest in grade 2.

Like many other villagers, Nou and Howa work in the field, planting rice and vegetables. They work long hours, from early morning until evening, to earn enough money to support the studies of their four children. They resented that they didn’t know how to actively participate in their children’s learning because they felt they were not educated enough to help with the children’s homework. Nou and Howa only completed primary school and did not receive much support when they were students. When the Village Education Development Committee (VEDC) informed them that 20 parents would be selected as role models to participate in the Community Awareness Training organised by the BEQUAL NGO Consortium, they were very enthusiastic.

I supported my wife to join and be actively involved in all the activities proposed by the teachers, Village Education Development Committee (VEDC), and District Education and Sports Bureau (DESB)” said Howa.

Nou explained “At first, I didn’t contribute a lot during the training because I was shy and not familiar with the process. I never had the opportunity to attend any training like this before. So, I mostly listened to the facilitator and followed his advice. For example, he encouraged me to borrow books and read with my children. I brought the books back home but I can’t read, so I asked my son to read for me. My husband and I listened together. It was a very nice family time.

During the workshop, they learned how to select story books appropriate to each child’s reading level and interest. Nou said “BEQUAL gave our village a book bank with 120 books. Sometimes it’s quite difficult to find a book my children would like to read. So, I observe my little boy. He likes books with colour pictures and animals. And also the ones with numbers and big letters.

The training lasted several weeks and included seven different modules. When Nou had to work in the field, Howa replaced her in the training. Back at home, they shared what they had learned. Howa added “I am proud to be one of the fathers who joined the community awareness training. It gave me an opportunity to support my children in their reading; I made a bookshelf for them; we read together, I read for them, they read for me; we shared the love of the books.”

 Proper book care and proper book storage awareness is very important in reading promotion. Creating good habits is one aim of the training and the children are taught to keep books in suitable places and not to leave them lying on the floor after reading. Books need to be kept away from younger siblings who might scribble in them or tear the pages, and away from food, beverages or pets. It is also important to teach children from the youngest age how to respect books, to turn the pages carefully and not to use books as rain or sun protection. The last two sessions of the community awareness training focused on how to develop good book care practices at home and to create a fit for purpose home reading corner.

“I asked many questions of the DESB. I had no idea how to set up the reading corner. My neighbours and I contributed with wood, bamboo, nails and carpenter tools. Coached by the DESB, we created a nice bookshelf. DESB explained the shelves needed to be at an appropriate height so that books would be in children’s arm reach” said Howa. “We also learned to create reading materials like flashcards. I often ask my elder son to help me with writing letters or words on the card; then we display them in the reading corner”.

Thanks to the training, Howa and Nou created their own home reading corner. They learnt that it doesn’t matter whether parents could read the books or not, they still have a key role to play in promoting reading in their family. Sitting next to their children and encouraging their reading, listening to their story, page after page, asking questions about the story… all those nice family moments will empower their children and nourish their interest in reading.

 BEQUAL, through the NGO Consortium (BNC) delivers many reading promotion activities with communities such as the creation of book banks, the establishment of reading clubs and the organisation of caregivers’ training on the importance of reading like the one Nou and Howa attended.