'Let's Read! Khmer E Books' is a project by The Asia Foundation to help create original stories and books in Khmer.
Southeast Asia Globe’s article titled, "How the digital revolution is bringing books to Cambodia’s children," highlights the importance of new literature for today's youth in Cambodia. The article looks at Cambodia’s history, specifically the Khmer Rouge period, and analyses its detrimental impact on literacy in the present day: “Forty years after the Khmer Rouge waged a devastating war on education, Cambodia’s children still cannot access the reading materials they need to start a new chapter in the nation’s history" (1).During the Khmer Rouge period, school teachers, authors and others working in the field of education were persecuted; According to the US Library of Congress, only 3,000 of the 20,000 primary school teachers survived the genocide. Additionally, “The nation’s body of literature was similarly devastated, with an estimated half of Khmer-language written material destroyed" (1).Now, Khmer language books are scarce and especially difficult for rural communities to access; many are simply unavailable in rural areas or are too expensive for disadvantaged families to afford.
Photo above: "Under lights: child garbage pickers gather around to read a book they found as they work late at night recycling trash at a Siem Reap dump."Source: https://sea-globe.com/digital-revolution-books-cambodian-children/
With this situation in mind, Asia Foundation’s 'Lets Read!' project was launched to help jump start Cambodia's book industry and increase access to children's books in Khmer!The Lets Read! project introduced an innovative method of creating new children’s books in an accelerated and cost-effective way: "The centerpiece of the initiative is a series of hackathon events that gathers individuals from a variety of industries to create high-quality children’s stories. At the intensive, one-day events, teams comprising of writers, artists, graphic designers, and coders collaborate to develop a set of children’s e-books. This method drastically reduces the time and resources needed to produce beautiful, illustrated children’s books" (2).The books produced by Let's Read! are open sourced, meaning they are available online to download for free, which significantly lowers the cost of printing. Another aspect of the project provides tablets and e-readers to schools to maximize the number of Khmer stories available.The Let’s Read! Initiative includes a girl’s empowerment storybook collection, with a range of stories featuring strong female lead characters and centered on the theme “Girls can do anything”. In these stories, the female characters overcome challenges and demonstrate courage and strength: the girls “…build a flying contraption to save a village, dissuade aliens from building an iron city on a beautiful island, devise a plan to scare away a wicked crow, and a host of other adventures.” (3).Last week, Free To Shine had 144 books printed from Let's Read! Since the books are "open-sourced" we were able to get them printed for less than 2 dollars each! We are so thankful that Let's Read! has already created so many exciting and beautiful books and we can't wait to start distributing them to the girls through our mobile library!
“Literacy is vital for poverty eradication, gender equality and more inclusive and sustainable societies” (1).
[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3p7rUhTS6rQ[/embed]Below are some of the original books created during the hackathon event and now available for download on their website!