World Vision International (Cambodia) received more than 2,000 books and donations of over $2,000 from members of the public who attended its March 26 Read Louder event, held as part of the organisation’s “10,000 books for Cambodian Children” campaign. Donations will continue to be accepted until September.

The event, held at Koh Pich’s Coconut Park, was attended by hundreds of students and their families.

Leng Vireak, World Vision Cambodia operations director, said the campaign aims to mobilise public contributions to helping support reading among Cambodian children.

“Reading is an essential factor in the development of children’s curiosity and way of seeing the world. Through our own observations at the grassroots level, many children in rural areas do not have many books available to them,” he said.

“We are an organisation that is focused on children’s futures. We want them to become leaders and responsible citizens who will take care of their families and communities. We promote the slogan ‘Today we are readers, tomorrow we are leaders.’ Reading is essential, and we need to do what we can to support it,” he added.

This is the second time that World Vision Cambodia has organised the Read Louder programme. This year, they aim to raise 10,000 books for children living in remote areas.

World Vision education programme technical director Va Surin said public education was severely affected by the long-term closures caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The 18-month school closures put the education of millions of children at risk. In late 2021, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport found that only 45 per cent of 6th grade students could read, with geographic and financial factors being responsible for the 55 per cent who were illiterate,” he said.

“Investing in reading, especially for children, is very important. Books are one of the most important warehouses for transferring knowledge. They are a great way for kids to explore a wide range of subjects, from culture to science,” he added.

Chan Beta, community vice-president at Junior Chamber International (JCI) Cambodia, Chaktomuk branch – which volunteered to support the 10,000 book campaign – said he believes that the Kingdom’s reading culture is improving, albeit limited, especially in the remotest areas.

“There is not much of a reading culture in these areas – especially when it comes to small children. Many factors play a part in this. It may be because of a lack of resources, or it may be that there is no support for the promotion of a culture of reading,” he said.

“Public contributions are essential, as many schools are short of books and libraries. We need to support them so they can support the development of healthy reading habits,” he added.

During last year’s campaign, World Vision Cambodia received over $2,400 and more than 500 books. The donations were supplied to reading camps and schools in Kratie province’s Sambor district and Preah Vihear province’s Choam Ksan.

Meas Serey, who volunteers at one of the reading camps, said the donations were welcome, but shortages remained a problem.

“Between 30 and 40 children come to read books with us every weekend, but we have a limited number of books, certainly not enough to meet the needs of all of the children who attend the camps,” she said.

“Reading camp not only helps to develop the children’s knowledge but helps them to make new friends and learn to socialise. I hope the public will offer their support to World Vision and donate books or funds to help these kids reach their full potential,” she added.