A corner of English books for children at the Lotus Community's library in Hà Nội. — Photo courtesy of Lotus Community
HÀ NỘI — Four years ago, Ngô Mai Hương, a teacher for Wellspring School, visited bookstores in Hà Nội to look for quality English books for her three-year-old daughter.
Most of the books she found there were of low quality and many had been carelessly translated from Vietnamese into English.
Luckily, she learned about the Lotus Community, a non-profit library with a large amount of English books collected from abroad.
Its founders, Andrew Chan, a Singaporean and his Vietnamese wife, Nguyễn Thị Thu Trang, carefully read every book before deciding whether to bring them to Việt Nam or not.
With 10,000 printed books in various genres and topics for children from under a year old to more than 13 years old and adults, Lotus Community is a place for children and parents to read English books, practise the language and learn new things through colourful pages.
Hương and her daughter have been regular visitors to the library on Sundays over the past four years.
From touch and feel books which help children identify colours and textures to scientific books on the lifecycle of insects, after four years of reading English books with her child, Hương is proud to say her daughter, now aged seven, has very good background knowledge of science.
“The Lotus books are of high quality and can not be found anywhere else. They are all well organised into categories for children of different ages. That’s why my daughter and I love this place,” Hương told Việt Nam News.
“I believe that reading not only nurtures children’s love for books and their soul but also maintains the culture of visiting the library, which needs to be encouraged in Việt Nam,” she said.
“Reading books with my child also helps me learn more knowledge as well,” she said.
To make reading more exciting and their English study more effective, Lotus Community has founded a digital collection of recorded narration or read-along books.
The Lotus team has worked hard to record the audio and so far has uploaded nearly 100 read-along videos on the library’s social network channels.
A read-along book in English on Lotus Community's Youtube channel.
“Read-along books aim to help beginners learn English or those not really confident with their reading skill. Families with parents who are not fluent in English can borrow Lotus books, watch videos and read along to practise. Parents and children who live far away or can not afford to borrow books can also refer to Lotus's read-along book channels on YouTube or Facebook,” said Trang, the co-founder.
Borrow books from a distance
Because Lotus Community is a reading project for the community, Trang said she wanted to set up a book reading community for life-long learning.
“I believe that no matter who you are, where you come from and how much money you have, you should get access to opportunities to learn and develop yourself.”
That’s why although the library is located in Hà Nội, it is not limited only book lovers in the capital.
Children and parents living far from Hà Nội or those who are too busy to visit the library can borrow books online on the library’s website and have them delivered to their doorstep.
From a physical library model, Lotus switched to an online library last May where recommended books are categorised into groups of topics, ages, genres and excellent authors are introduced in a separate section.
Three pages of each book and book review available on the website are a reference for readers to take a glance at before making their choice.
A book introduction and review of first pages are recommendations for readers to select suitable books. — Photo lotuscommunity.org.vn
“Readers can create their own book wish lists online. The Lotus team is ready to offer online support to readers to help them select suitable books,” Trang said.
Lotus Community is not only a place to borrow books but a place where children and adults can learn and play together. That’s why the library volunteers have held outdoor activities for families in Hà Nội like reading books combined with playing board games at parks, story-telling sessions at schools or opening libraries at coffee shops and schools.
Interacting activities are held at the library to make children's reading experience more exciting. — Photo courtesy of Lotus Community
Lotus is raising funds to maintain the operation of the meaningful library by calling for a direct cash contribution or buying eco-friendly bags.
According to Nguyễn Thị Đào, lead volunteer at Lotus Community, in the near future, Lotus plans to offer more quality English books not only for children but also for adults for research and English teaching.
The library plans to resume board game activities, hold offline reading sessions and will continue to make read-along videos, she said. — VNS