Asia Foundation Launches Let’s Read! E-Books for Cambodian Children

(19 September 2016, Phnom Penh)  Yesterday, The Asia Foundation’s Books for Asia program launched Let’s Read! E-Books for Cambodian Children, a program that will develop a line of high-quality, Khmer-language storybooks. Let’s Read! E-Books for Cambodian Children addresses one of the root causes for the weak reading culture in many developing Asian countries – a non-existent or underdeveloped children’s book industry. The project in Cambodia is designed to nurture a creative class of children’s book professionals with the interest, experience, and financial incentives to publish.

The centerpiece of the program is a series of hackathon events that connects members of the publishing community with e-book developers, the first of which was held yesterday at Impact Hub, a co-working space in Phnom Penh. The event nurtured a small yet growing number of children’s book professionals while raising public awareness on the importance of reading. Teams comprised of writers, illustrators, book designers, and coders, with guidance from Room to Read publishing experts and an editor, developed storyboards, cover art, and e-book production notes for a set of children’s books. The illustrated stories will be available in both print-ready and e-book formats that anyone can freely use and adapt.

Attendees included His Excellency Puth Samith, Director General of Education, Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sports, who opened the event, and Silas Everett, The Asia Foundation’s country representative for Cambodia.

Let’s Read! E-Books for Cambodian Children will also provide a boost to the nascent e-book industry in Cambodia. In addition to the openly licensed e-books produced out of the event series, the program builds new working relationships across the print and technology industries. Writers and illustrators will work side-by-side with coders, catalyzing new ways of approaching and developing books. According to The Asia Foundation’s Mobile Phones and Internet 2015 study, the percentage of Cambodians who own at least one smartphone is 39.5%, a 51.7% increase from 2014. The rapidly growing popularity and accessibility of smartphones presents an affordable way for low-income families to access educational material as well as new market opportunities for content creators.

The children’s books produced at the hackathon will be launched and its artwork showcased at The Asia Foundation’s Cambodia Community Art Gallery in December. The books will be presented to existing online Khmer libraries, including the Ministry of Education’s Open Education Resources Cambodia site and the Library For All digital library.

The illustrated announcement in full is here.