Reading. It’s something a lot of us people from North America take for granted sometimes. Even those of us who don’t read multitudes of books each year can appreciate just reading a news article or a story for fun once in a while. But most of the time we don’t realize how amazing it is that we get to read for fun in our own language and how much that can affect our lives.
Here in Cambodia many people can’t read, and even those that can don’t usually sit at home on a chair and pour over a book. They might read a news article once in a while, or an announcement, or a legal document once in a while, but rarely do people read just for the sake of reading. There are some story books around, but most people don’t keep those kinds of books in their homes. Schools often have libraries, but the books don’t get checked out.
Growing up in America I got to read a lot. I was encouraged by my family to read. I read all sorts of great books like old biographies of Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Jackson and Davy Crockett, my mother’s copies of “The Happy Hollisters,” and lots of Daniel Pinkwater stories like “Fat Men From Outer Space” and “Wugie Norple.” I got so good at reading that when I was 10 I actually read from front to back Michael Crichton’s “Jurassic Park” because my mom said if I could read it my Dad would take me to see the movie. I still have my copy of “Jurassic Park” on my bookshelf across from the desk in my office. And even though I only get through a handful of books a year these days, reading helped me to master my own language. It challenged my brain, taught me to think creatively, and gave me a never-ending sense of imagination. But never once did I realize how valuable it was that I could read all those books in my own language.
So often in Cambodia people get carried away with teaching English. There is nothing wrong with learning English, but English is not the language children speak at home, it is not necessarily the language being used to teach them math and science. It is the language they may need for a job, but not the language of their culture.
Growing up those books I read in my language helped me through school. Even if they weren’t related to school assignments, those books helped me to think and helped me to practice my language. So we feel that at Crossing Cambodia we need to provide that same opportunity to our children here. To help them grow, to become better at school, and try to give them that creativity and sense of imagination that only a good book can create.
Just recently we started raising money for books and a generous supporter helped us out by providing the funds to buy a very large bookshelf. It is our goal that by Christmas we are going to fill this shelf with Khmer language children’s books and story books to encourage our kids to read daily in their free time. We will take our chances and even let them take books home to read at home, because we want them to read.
Our theme for 2013 is God’s Love in Action. So often we think of what is essential and we may forget that things we do for fun are part of how God has equipped us for His mission. Reading for fun is one of those things we want our kids to do so that they can be successful and be able to share God’s love with those around them.
Will you join us by praying and helping us to fill this shelf with books for our kids?
Gregory P.W. Holz
Crossing Cambodia Mission Director
Greg Holz is the Mission Director for Crossing Cambodia. He has been living in Cambodia since 2007 and has been working with street children for more than 2 years. Crossing Cambodia is committed to serving these kids and putting God’s love into action in their lives through education and other locally based outreach projects.