Volunteers from civil society and the private sector jointly launched the “Promote Community-Based Reading in Cambodia’s capital and 24 provinces” campaign to raise support for the implementation of the “One Book-One Community” project at the beginning of 2023.

According to the announcement of the One Book-One Community project on its Facebook page, the campaign is part of a fundraiser to support community-based reading throughout the country.

Heang Vathy, owner of Riel Tiger Solutions Co Ltd, which is a co-founder of project, told The Post on September 19 that in order to implement the project in the future they had come up with a number of events and fundraisers to gain support from the public, development partners and government institutions.

She said that the project was scheduled to be implemented in early 2023 and run until the end of 2024 and it was developed by volunteers in the private sector and civil society, specifically individuals who personally love to read.

She added that the project needed support from the public and especially from relevant institutions.

“So far, we have received support from more than 30 institutions. Those institutions are partly from the private sector as well as libraries and the general public along with those representing writers. Everyone can support this initiative by donating books and helping to arrange an event or by giving a small donation to make the project work,” she said.

According to the Cambodia Socio-Economic Survey conducted in 2014, Cambodia has the second-lowest literacy rate in ASEAN after Laos. It said about 29 per cent of the population lacks basic literacy skills.

The National Youth Development Council (NYDC 2021) report said that Cambodia is a youthful country with 32 per cent aged 10-24 years. It said 71 per cent of youth were not in formal education.

Heang Vathy said these sorts of statistics were the factors that led the team of volunteers to jointly create this project to promote reading in the community by creating reading competitions, undertaking book distribution efforts, creating mobile libraries and developing existing libraries across the entire Kingdom.

“Increased use of technology and constant use of smart phones and tablets have had a huge impact on children and young people. Spending too much time on devices and on social media are creating problems with our children’s development, including sleeping problems or insomnia and a decline in physical health as well as reduced ability to concentrate or focus. This project is to help society and reduce these problems for Cambodia,” she said.

According to the project documentation seen by The Post on September 19, their stated mission is to help encourage all institutions to embrace a culture of reading and knowledge in their operations, in addition to planned donation goals of 25,000 books and the building of 25 libraries in order to reach between 50,000 and 70,000 readers nationwide.

Ros Soveacha, spokesman for the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, said the ministry welcomes and encourages positive cooperation by private actors and members of the public in promoting the implementation of youth development policies and providing learning resources.

According to Soveacha, in order to create good lifelong reading habits, promote reading culture and improve reading and writing skills in the Kingdom, the government has designated March 11 as National Reading Day so that each year they can hold events that draw attention and raise awareness of this problem and the need for continued efforts to achieve full literacy in Cambodia.

He added that the ministry has organised National Reading Day every year since 2016, which now has competitions in three disciplines: reading, reciting poems and writing with winners receiving the Samdech Techo Hun Sen Award.