Thank you for your article on books and reading in Cambodia (PPP 10/15). It is a
substantive issue and one which can absorb all the attention it can get.
The Hun Sen Library of the Royal University of Phnom Penh is filled to capacity every
day/time it is open, about 450-500 students, even during vacation. The collection
is primarily in English, and for tertiary learning, a foreign language is an obvious
necessity for at least the next generation of Cambodians. But, in order to assist
student learning at a basic level, the University staff, with the assistance of foreign
volunteers from Australia, Ireland, France and the USA, have developed textbooks
in Khmer at tertiary level in most major subjects. And these books are used, re-used
and revised yearly. In addition, the English Language Support Unit, which teaches
English to 90% of the students in all disciplines for three years, has begun a "lending
library" program for students in the classes, and the students do, indeeed,
read for pleasure. The key is finding the right level and then creating the bridge
into adult reading.
A project is needed that will create young adult fiction in Khmer dealing in culturally
appropriate ways with the issues faced by young Cambodians, such as employment, corruption,
HIV/AIDS, friendship, justice, etc.
As you mentioned, the copyright law will help projects like the one above become
sustainable and rewarding.
- Luise Ahrens, Maryknoll NGO