Big Brother Mouse
When you walk over the nightmarket in Luang Prabang, you will find at the very beginning, there where the temple stands, a stand with a very friendly guy who sells books. Once you show interest, he will be eager to explain you about Big Brother Mouse and about himself. He is a teacher, a member of Big Brother Mouse and an illustrator. He actually does write some stories of the cartoon books and other children books and he makes the illustrations in the books.
At this stand at the nightmarket you can buy books and give to Laotian people, in particular the poor people and the people in rural areas. As you are a tourist and most probably visit only cities and sightseeing places, it seems useless to buy books for Laotian kids. This is actually no problem at all. Discuss it with the guy and he will explain that you can buy a fixed set of books for a certain price, or make your own set (or buy a single book) by choosing yourself which ones and how many. He will keep the books in a box and when they have many, they organize another trip to villages to hand over the books to village schools or locals. You can trust that that will be done.
Their background starts with a boy who went to school at 8 years old some 50 km from Luang Prabang. He became the only one who could read in his whole village. His parents sent him to Luang Prabang to become a monk. This boy got the first publishing license in Laos. An American sold his publishing company in the U.S. and visited Lao. He noticed that nobody read books and that there weren’t even books in Laotian language available. He got the idea to start things, brought a few used computers from Thailand and found writers and illustrators. They made Laotian fonts, got through govt procedures, etc. Three guys who set it up all within a few years.
In June 2006 the former monk boy got a business license. Big Brother Mouse was set up as a Lao owned, not for profit business and he applied for a publishing license. In that same month they opened a bookshop in Luang Prabang, as they had more books in Laotian than any other shop in Northern Laos, 6 titles. The book swap became popular but after two weeks activity slowed down as everyone had read the books twice.
By the end of that year they had published 15 books and the next goal was to get them to children. One of the employees introduced the book parties in villages. 31 book parties in 2007 and by now the number is over 4400 such parties. They have to get there by boat and other ways of transport. The parties exist of reading books aloud, play games, sing songs about the book and the kids get their very first book to see and read.
Practice speaking and Recognition
At the Big Brother Mouse office in Luang Prabang you have another way of helping the locals. There is a possibility to practice English speaking with them, daily between 9-11 am and 5-7 pm. Kids, but also monks and adults might show up to practice English skills with you. In the mean time they find more writers and artists, which means more books. There is more international recognition for this project. Out of the hand of Bill Clinton and the Clinton Global Initiative, Big Brother Mouse got a certificate in 2008 in Hong Kong. In 2016 they received the prestigious IBBY-Asahi reading promotion award.
When you are in Luang Prabang, just visit the nightmarket and the shop for English speaking next to Three Nagas Restaurant and do the locals a favor. More info can be found here http://bigbrothermouse.com/