In 2003 I traveled to Laos with a small group of people from California. Two of them were teachers from Modesto, and they had brought along children’s books written in Hmong and Lao that their school district had published. On this day we were visiting a Hmong village in the northwest corner of the country, near a town called Muang Sing, and they decided to give their books to this village. We were inside a large split bamboo Hmong house when they broke out the books. Never have I seen such delight at books. It was obvious that this was a new experience for the villagers. This man first held his book upside down for a while, until he figured out that something just wasn’t right. It seems disrespectful to him to post that photo, however. He wasn’t unintelligent, just inexperienced. There was one girl in the crowd who could read Hmong and she drew a crowd when she began to read aloud. This photo brings me back to a lovely day among some warm and friendly people.
This photo also makes me think about the huge part books have always played in my life, sometimes at the cost of doing anything but read. I wonder what I might have learned to do with my time had Ever since my grandma convinced the librarian to check books out to me when I was six years old, I’ve had one close by, ready for a reading emergency. The thought of not having a book close at hand makes me very uncomfortable. Guess maybe I should take a deeper look at that!