My special task during our stay in Laos was to spruce up the English Lending Library. Establishing the Lending Library is a sustainable way to support the Lao English teachers in improving their proficiency in teaching English as a foreign language: At the Lending Library, the teachers can borrow plenty of material for their classrooms, but also a great variety of items to study the English language for themselves as well as didactic material for teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL).
Therefore we brought 2 more suitcases filled with books from Germany, which were generously donated by private persons this time.
When I saw the Lending Library for the first time I was shocked. I had seen a picture of Franziska standing in front of the well-structured and organized new library, which flashed up in my mind. The library I was standing in front of did not bear any likeness to the library in the picture. Somehow it was good to realise that the teachers had obviously made use of the material, but it looked like they had not put the books back to the right spot. It was, regrettably and quite frankly, a mess.
Consequently, I spent many hours in the office to rearrange the library and sort the books by topics. I made little signs which I stuck on the shelves so it would be easier for the teachers to find books and to return them to their spots. The monotonous work was sweetened by the curious glances of the Laotian pupils. When I started laminating some picture books for the library, the children were so fascinated that they spent hours watching me with wide eyes.
After six weeks of work I wondered how many English teachers actually made use of the Lending Library and borrowed books on a regular basis.
Hence, I prepared a little questionnaire for the teachers to evaluate the current use.
Here is what I asked and found out:
Do you read in your free time?
All the teachers answered the question with: Yes, I do.
How often do you read?
Most of the teachers claim to read up to 3 or 4 times a week, which is quite a lot in my opinion when you consider that they often have to do a lot of other things after school, like cooking or working on the rice fields.
How long do you read?
The answer varied in length. Some teachers only read 10 minutes when they hold a book in their hands, others read up to 1 hour.
Do you read English books?
Again all the teachers answered the question with: Yes, I do.
What is your favourite book?
All English teachers seem really interested in love stories. I can imagine this because the people in Laos love to hear Laotian music. The songs they listen to often deal with a broken heart, unrequited love, or endless love.
They also like to read funny stories such as comics, picture books and books of Disney movies.
Have you ever borrowed a book from the Lending Library or any other library?
Only the teachers from the primary school borrowed books from the Lending Library. The teachers from the secondary school either borrowed books from another library or bought books themselves. (This may be due to the fact that the secondary school is a little further away or that the teachers did not fully understand Franzi’s explanation that they, too, can use the Lending Library – Franzi had given all the teachers a guided tour to the library on the day Team I said good-bye in a little farewell ceremony.)
As you can see, all of the English teachers are interested in reading and also interested in reading English books, which is really good as they are all eager to improve their English skills. Keeping up the good work at the Lending Library and expanding it is a worthwhile task, as the teachers benefit from it.
The 7 weeks of Team II’s voluntary work are over, and we have made it safely back to Germany. Therefore, making the English Lending Library more accessible or attractive for the secondary school teachers will be a new goal for our next team. And again, donations for the Lending Library are more than welcome!
Text by: J. Brecht
Photos by: J. Reissig