Classroom libraries, small collections of age- and reading level-appropriate books provided directly in the classroom, are seen as viable options for schools that don’t have space for separate library facilities. Two years ago, Room to Read initiated a pilot program to bring classroom libraries into schools in eight countries. Jen Daly, Room to Read Senior Program Associate for Reading Rooms, shares this story about a recent trip to Laos where she was evaluating some of our classroom libraries.
The little boy thought he was being sneaky, but everyone knows teachers have eyes in the back of their heads. While most surreptitious student behavior involves chewing gum or passing notes, this teacher in Laos discovered something rather refreshing happening behind her back.
Houa Keng Complete Primary School houses one of Room to Read’s 10 pilot classroom libraries in Laos. The classroom library allows teachers to more easily integrate books into their lesson plans and support recreational reading. Because children have easy access to the books, they are more likely to read them, as was made evident the day I visited this classroom.
One young boy obviously couldn’t wait to re-read his favorite book, Our New Pond, one of Room to Read's children's books. While the teacher stood in front of the classroom, the stealthy reader would slowly and quietly pull the book out of the cubby of his desk and continue reading the story, being careful to turn the pages gingerly so he wouldn’t be found out. Despite his best efforts at being sly, his teacher was well aware of what the young boy was up to. She repeatedly walked over and stood near him when he was reading, giving him a stern look. Each time, he would quickly shove the book back into his desk. Despite being caught red-handed, he was undeterred, and as soon as the teacher turned her back, out came the book once again.
After the class ended, the teacher explained how much the young boy had learned to love books and, in particular, really enjoyed Room to Read’s Local Language Publishing books. Our New Pond, a 2008 picture book about a group of animals who band together to find water for their pond, was his definite favorite. In fact, it was a rare occasion when the book was ever back on the library shelf!
She explained, “He loves animals, and I believe this is the first book he’s ever seen with animals he’s familiar with." Despite trying to keep the boy focused on the day’s lesson, she nevertheless found it amusing and encouraging to see him trying to sneak reading. "For many of my students, reading used to be almost a chore," she noted. "But now that we have the library in our classroom, the children can't wait to read -- some more than others!"
Room to Read has established over 800 libraries in Laos since 2007. Our Local Language Publishing program in Laos has produced 82 original children’s book titles, some of which have won national awards for excellence. To learn more about our work in Laos, visit our website.