Srayang is PLF’s first Library specifically geared to Secondary School students and we’re learning much during the roll out.
Prior to starting up actual book lending, a benchmark of sorts was taken when students at the center were only allowed to “check out” a book without it leaving the library. They had to choose a book, read for an hour, put the book back on the shelf and retrieve it the next day to continue reading. From this exercise came the following data:
Among 110 students, 70 books were “checked out” (though not taken home) during February.
Leisure vs Study Girls vs Boys
The 67% girls statistic is one that continuously stymies us and the singular thing we believe propels girls to always take a higher percentage of the milestones of “finishing high school” and “entering university”.
Coincidentally (?), exactly 67% of our current University awards go to girls and this statistic has remained constant for the last 5 years. Not because we favor them, but because they achieve it.
We are continuously working on the boys don’t read problem at its root at the primary school level. Recently we’ve piloted the first digital delivery of books to primary school students at Knar and we think we’re onto something; stay tuned on that.
We might now look at the 43% reading for leisure and 57% reading for study and think “Oh wow these kids are really focused on their study; that’s so great” when in fact, we should be (and are) dismayed that our high school students do not yet value reading for the sheer love of it. We’d be happier if they were doing leisure reading the lion’s share of the time.
We have work to do; that is clear. And it’s great to have this benchmark as a launching point. The library at Srayang is brimming with exciting new titles that we brought in from Phnom Penh. How can we get students (especially boys) interested enough to pick up an amazing book? And then another?
The first step in the journey toward equalizing this statistic was sending some recent grads of the Siem Reap girls and boys dorms out to the Library for a bit of workshopping. The students who went on the mission are all from those same villages and so they know the students and the community. They know that these are first generation readers; no parents read, there are no books in anyone’s homes.
Avid readers themselves, they launched book clubs and other library activities that are drawing students in. They are talking with the next generation about how important reading and researching is whilst in University. They speak of how books must not be simply read but devoured. They can all point to the love of reading, developed in high school, as the key that unlocked their university success. These workshops have been magical.
Our next step will be to duplicate the iPad-driven digital library that worked so well to capture the attention of boys at Knar. We’re currently working on curating the library for the tablets and figuring out the connectivity issues at a project with even less internet access.
The Librarian at Srayang is from Romchek Village and a former resident of Srayang when it was a dormitory. Non is also an English teacher at the facility and gives remedial Khmer language classes as well. He lives and breathes reading and writing, in two languages. We’re excited about what we know Non will be bringing to the table in the months ahead as the library at Srayang continues to be tweaked and observed.
This is a project of PLF Canada, executed by PLF Cambodia.
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