Becoming Book-Smart with Better Life Vietnam
Opening a new book for the very first time still fills me with the same excitement and anticipation as it did as a child. Not only do books enable children to discover new worlds, learn about the past and the present, they also have the power to transform lives. By sparking imaginations, stimulating critical thinking and developing empathy, reading gives children the literacy skills they need to succeed at school, at work, and in life. British novelist Matt Haig captures the magnetism when writing for children, expressing that “while their vocabulary and experiences might be smaller, their imaginations are much wider”.
Although teeming with aspiration and potential, the sentiment of unlocking new worlds when reading is harder to access for those living in rural and underdeveloped communities.
While the reading culture is commonly rife in metropolitan areas all over the world, rural communities are falling behind and in desperate need for books and literacy improvement. It is globally recognized that students from urbanized areas soar through a larger volume of books at a faster rate than those from a rural background. In the rural communities of Vietnam, the level of literacy is so weak that pupils are only able to read one or two books annually.
Luckily for these communities, hope is not lost.
Founded in 2010, Better Life Vietnam (BLV) is a non-profit foundation that works to improve education conditions for underprivileged children and youth in Vietnam. With the vision to help reduce the burden for poorer families in the country, BLV has dedicated its efforts to encourage knowledge to support children in getting the education they deserve. The organization’s main projects include donating books libraries, scholarship programs, and English classes. In order to solve the shortage of books and to better promote a thriving reading culture, BLV teamed up with the Centre for Knowledge Assistance and Community Development (CKACD), to create a project named The Books Library for Brighter Future.
The project provides free books for underprivileged children through the implementation of children’s libraries in Vietnamese schools. Each classroom is equipped with a bookcase full of children’s picture books, short novels, and textbooks, which the students are encouraged to read both at school and at home. The students that manage to read the most are recognized and rewarded. Workshops and writing competitions are organized within the schools to enrich knowledge, enhance reading, and improve comprehension skills. The teams at CKACD and BLV continuously monitor and evaluate the project’s progress in order to identify areas of improvement and celebrate the successes.
The CKACD, founded by Mr. Nguyen Quang Thach, has successfully built more than 10,000 bookcases for nearly 500,000 children in rural schools in Vietnam. The two teams aim to offer book access to 15 million rural youths in Vietnam during the course of the coming years.
“Since the classroom libraries were implemented, I have seen more students read books both at school and at home. Students are thinking outside the box, asking teachers more questions, and starting their own debate clubs, which they run themselves. I feel sad for the thousands of former students who lacked the same opportunity.”
- Duong Le Nga, former chairwoman of Youth Pioneers Union at An Duc Secondary School
Matt Haig was right - you either read to escape or you read to find yourself, and the Better Life Vietnam charity aims to make that luxury possible for every child in the country.