Educating young minds, in many ways
We’re helping eager young people get a better education, with high-quality books and exciting, inter-active schools.
Do you remember the excitement of rushing home to read a book that you hoped would never end? Of getting so immersed in a game that you forgot everything else, and realized years later that the experience was not only fun, but also helped you develop a well-rounded set of mental, physical, and interpersonal skills?
We’re Big Brother Mouse, a Lao-based, Lao-owned organization. Since 2006, we’ve been publishing “books that make literacy fun!” In 2016, we opened Big Sister Mouse, a school on the outskirts of Luang Prabang, with students ranging from pre-school to young adults. There we create a learning environment that is fun and satisfying, while also helping young people develop all their abilities, from reading and math and languages to life skills such as perseverance and cooperation.
Students ranging in age from 3 to 23 enjoy many approaches to education at Big Sister Mouse. We play games that develop number and word skills, geography and strategic thinking, spatial thinking and teamwork. Children learn the alphabet from books and the blackboard, by being blindfolded and feeling letters cut from sandpaper, and by playing games with oversize letters. They learn basic computer skills, including simple programming with a special language called Scratch. Students who have learned a skill often teach it to others.
Our learning center, Big Sister Mouse, has young adult students as well as children. The young adults learn many of the skills they didn’t get in high school, ranging from academic skills (writing, English, math, computers) to broader problem-solving skills.
We use many interactive, hands-on techniques. Here, one student is learning Scratch, which teaches how to write computer programs by moving blocks which contain commands, rather than typing them out. (That’s hard enough for native English speakers to do without making a typo, and much harder for Lao students.) English, when they can practice one-on-one conversation with visitors, is the favorite for nearly everyone.
For younger children, we offer classes with the standard Lao curriculum but, as with young adults, we focus on interactive approaches. When visitors volunteer for a day or a week, children get to learn English — and they learn fast. Often we combine several activities. In the Happy Snake game, everybody gets three cards. If they can combine those numbers, using standard math symbols, to make the number the dealer called, they advance one square toward the snake’s head.
Since 2006 we’ve published more than 400 books. Our first books were for children learning to read. Now we’ve published on a wide variety of subjects, from women’s health to the countries of ASEAN, from traditional fairy tales to the diary of Anne Frank.
Traditional Lao fairy tales are the most popular books for all ages. These stories help new readers develop their reading skills. Then they get enthusiastic about other books too, because a top priority for us is to publish books that people are eager to read. Children have enjoyed our nature series, with books about life in the sea, insects, and (of course) dinosaurs. Older readers eagerly share a Lao cookbook, the first they’ve ever seen.
Reading is fun. It improves general communication skills, as well as reading skills. Books can help us improve our health, get better jobs, and see how other countries have solved the challenges that we face – or what happened if they didn’t.
At many schools in Laos, we’ve started a program of daily reading. We leave enough books in each classroom for them to read every day. Most of these schools had no books at all that children could read for enjoyment, until Big Brother Mouse came.
Big Brother Mouse is based in Luang Prabang, Laos; we also have a bookshop in Vientiane.
Please feel free to contact us with any queries or questions you may have.