Words on Wheels opens children”s minds

Published: 21/06/2011 05:00



The Phu Luu Te Primary School yard in Ha Noi’s My Duc District is crowded with pupils on Saturday mornings, all eagerly awaiting a mobile library carrying books, computers and educational games.

Pupils gather on the Phu
Luu Te Primary School yard to read books from the mobile library. (Photo: VNS)

The scene is a far cry from years gone by, when kids had to do with whatever was around them. Now, they have a new and exciting interactive playground to look forward to, with the arrival of the Words on Wheels mobile library.

Over the next three years, the library will be made available to 4,000 children aged between six and 15, from 10 of Ha Noi’s most remote villages, including Phu Nghia, Bach Thach, Thang Tri, Luong Chau and Nam Hong. These villages do not have public libraries and are home to a large number of poor households, with a monthly income of less than VND900,000 (US$42).

Words on Wheels will bring 1,500 English and Vietnamese books, educational games and toys as well as six computer terminals with internet access to these beneficiaries.

In each village, the library will be parked at either the local cultural house or a school, staffed by teams from the Ha Noi Public Library and the Singapore International Foundation (SIF). Activities such as story-telling, arts and crafts programmes and multimedia training will also be organised, to help enhance the children’s learning experience.

Words on Wheels is being funded by Keppel Land Viet Nam Limited, a subsidiary of one of Singapore’s multinational groups, with support from the International Centre and Quang Ba Royal Park. The $78,000-project is also being implemented in partnership with the Ha Noi Public Library.

“The project is expected to provide poor children with a window to the world through improving their reading habits, because there is a division between urban and rural areas in terms of accessing information,” SIF’s Executive Director Jean Tan said.

Like many cities, Ha Noi has to cope with the challenges of managing the gap between urban and rural development. In August 2008, the Government merged the metropolitan area of Ha Noi with selected surrounding districts and provinces.

This physical expansion created a critical need for additional resources so that the city’s facilities like its public library could better service the larger population.

According to the General Statistics Office, about 60 per cent of Ha Noi’s 6.5 million residents lived in rural areas. Their access to internet services and public libraries was limited, especially for those furthest away from the city.

“What’s unique about this mobile library is it brings internet access to rural communities,” said Tan.

She added that the majority of the 27 per cent of Vietnamese who use the internet lived almost exclusively in big cities.

“The internet is full of learning opportunities for children. Teachers may also find ideas for lesson plans and free games that enhance the learning of maths and science for kids.”

“I can do a lot of activities with the mobile library such as reading books, telling stories and using the computers. I love all the activities but reading books is what I love the most,” said Nguyen Thuy Linh, 11, from Phu Luu Te Primary School.

Trinh Minh Trang, also aged 11, said reading book provided her with a lot of useful knowledge.

“I hope the mobile library will visit every weekend to help us study and play together,” she said.

Roger Jenkins, a volunteer from SIF said it was the first time he had told stories to children in Viet Nam.

“The way they respond to questions and speak English surprises me because they are so confident. You can see how excited they are too. The mobile library will always be welcomed here,” he added.

Nguyen Minh Tan, a Keppel volunteer shared the ideas, saying that this was a community project that provided local children with the chance to access the internet, books and magazines.

“They were very excited when we arrived. Words on Wheels helps children have bigger dreams by building a culture of reading and self-learning.”

School Principal Le Thi Tham said the project had created new opportunities for their pupils.

“I can see many positive points in this project. Pupils can access the information and technology facilities and be exposed to the internet. At the same time, books need readers and as the children read the books, they can also learn new information,” Tham said.

She said that in several countries, mobile libraries had become a “key” education tool in locations with limited infrastructure and transport.

“Knowledge is the key for children to open the door of their lives. They seek knowledge from schools, teachers and pages. Books are like teachers who travel with you during both childhood and adulthood.”

Jean Tan said the project would be expanded to other localities in the country after a review of its effectiveness.

Phu Luu Te playground was still full of pupils during lunchtime, reluctant to leave their new found facility and anxious for its return.

VietNamNet/Viet Nam News

Provide by Vietnam Travel

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