“Elephants are coming! Elephants are coming!” Hundreds of young voices shout in chorus, the excitement palpable. But these are not just any elephants—they are four-legged libraries!
In Laos, the Asian elephant has long been a national symbol. Since ancient times, the loveable giants have been extremely useful—from battlefields to agricultural fields—but now they’ve found a new home on the endangered species list.
In an effort to both increase public awareness of the elephants’ plight and support literacy in rural communities, Room to Read Laos teamed up with two other NGOs (Action with Lao Children and ElefantAsia) as well as the local government to implement the first ever Elephant Mobile Library.
The perfect mode of delivery for remote communities, the Elephant Mobile Library has been an instant hit. Stocked with 640 Lao-language children’s books (many featuring elephants) and supplementary educational materials, the library’s maiden voyage included four primary schools that serve more than 1,000 students in the northern province of Xaybouly.
Today, the Elephant Mobile Library has made its way to one of those very schools, greeted by hundreds of young readers. As the elephants enter the school gates, scores of students line up dutifully—eager to get a closer look at their unusual guests. With bright eyes and wide smiles, the youngest students strain to wait their turns, bouncing up and down with excitement. Our team is surprised when none of the students seem afraid of the giant creatures, carefully approaching the elephants one-by-one, and accepting a book from the “librarians” seated atop them.
The day’s events continue with literacy games, songs, storytelling circles and comprehension exercises lead by the Room to Read team, all with a focus on elephant conservation and what individuals can do to help these creatures thrive. It’s clear from the laughter ringing through the air and enthusiastic participation that for these young readers, the Elephant Mobile Library is a welcomed addition to the curriculum.