Why is reading so important?
Students and members of the public enjoyed reading and collecting some of the 3,500 English books offered at a Book Festival held at the National Library this week, hosted by the Singapore Ambassador to Laos. Vientiane Times went along to talk to visitors and ask them about their love of reading.

Mr Sommai Phommachanh, from D-Book, an online bookshop: I didn’t know they were going to give away free books here. Of course it’s great to get books for free and people can take whatever they want. I heard that they will try to hold this event again soon because a lot of people turned up. This means that many people are interested in reading. Reading is so important and it’s a good way to build our knowledge. It’s hard to inspire people to read but we can set a good example for others. I think everyone does like to read but sometimes they can’t find the right book. If they find one that interests them they will begin to love reading. I hope we will have more and more book events like this.

Members of the organising committee and participating artists cut a ribbon at the opening ceremony.

Mr Benjamin Soo, former curator, Global Shapers Vientiane: We believe that books have the power and the ability to grasp the imagination of young minds. We also feel that there isn’t really much supply of English books here in Laos and we’ve been asked “why don’t you bring in Thai books instead of English books?” and we feel that’s the root of the problem. So that’s why we decided to do this project as it’s really investing in the future. It’s investing in the libraries of Laos, hoping that one day when children grow up they will be able to grasp English even more efficiently and fluently and that they will have memories. A book is something that everyone grows up with and we want to provide good books that they will remember forever. It is personally a project of mine and a friend who is from Singapore suggested that I bring some books because the National Library was clearing out some of these books anyway. So we took some of the books and brought them here and we had some really good partners and sponsors as well. It’s kind of funny that children can read Lao and Thai but they can’t read English. Based on our Facebook event info page we knew that about 600 people were interested but only 100 people were coming. But today the turnout has been great, even though the library is a long way out of town.

Ms Edgy Phommavong, a student at Sisattanak Secondary School: My sister told me to come here and I arrived at 9am and stayed until it finished. I came here because I love reading. Reading gives me a lot of knowledge in different areas and also makes me feel relaxed. It’s very hard to find people of my age who like to read. If you look around here today, I only see adults who are members of the university or library staff. I’ve never been to an event like this before. I really like it even though my English is not perfect but there are thousands of books to choose from. I chose some easy books and have already finished two.

Ms Latdavanh Xomvilai from the National Economic Research Institute: I saw on Facebook that the Singapore Ambassador would donate some books at the National Library. I was very interested and brought my children along. I want to do something with my children that they enjoy, such as reading. One of the problems in Laos is that there are not many books available and most of them are quite expensive. Today we can get free books, so why not come? This is a good way to support and encourage reading. Reading is not part of our culture and only a few people like to read books and newspapers. It’s different in developed countries where people read even while they’re having breakfast or a coffee. To inspire people to read, we need a wide variety of books that contain a lot of information and most importantly are not too expensive.

Ms Siamphia Norlasin, a student at the University of Health Sciences: I am happy to have a chance to get some free books which hopefully will improve my reading and English. I took at least 10 books and I wanted to take more. I will share them with my friends who didn’t come. I read some English books before. I don’t really understand them but I want to practice my English. I also like to read Lao books. I would like to thank Singapore for donating these books and I hope that next time they will advertise the event more widely so that more people know about it.

By Times Reporters
(Latest Update September 1, 2018)

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