In line with societal concerns about an exponential increase in the amount of screen time children get in the modern era, the Asia Foundation has partnered with Starbucks Cambodia to promote its online library, called “Let’s Read”, which aims to promote children’s reading in the digital age. The collaboration intends to divert children’s attention from online entertainment to reading books.

Two young women authors who are published on the platform spoke about their pride at playing a part in helping young children discover the magic of reading.

Amarin Pisey, 24, and Mil Sopheavattey, 23, began contributing to the library in 2019 and celebrated the collaboration with the November 18 launch of two new Khmer language books.

“Bobo the Famous Hairdresser” is the work of Pisey, a graduate of the state-run Institute of Foreign Languages (IFL). The book is the tale of a lamb who is deaf and dumb and unable to communicate with his friends.

But Bobo has an innate skill – she is good at styling hair, which attracts the interest of all of the other animals. After recognising her own talent, Bobo dreams of becoming a professional hairdresser in the future.

According to the author, the story encourages children with disabilities, especially girls, to work hard and discover their strengths.

“With this book, I wanted to tell children with deafness that it should not be an obstacle to communicating with others. I especially want disabled girls to remain strong and unlock the talents that will ensure they succeed,” she said.

Sopheavattey graduated from the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP) with a degree in statistics. By day, she works at Chip Mong Bank.

Her educational story is called “Nunu the Little Bear”. It tells the story of a baby bear who loves mountain biking. As was the only female entrant in a race she was teased by the male bears, and considered withdrawing from the competition. Thanks to the encouragement of a female spectator, she trains hard and eventually wins a race, and the admiration of the male bears.

“This story encourages girls who dream of doing a job that women don’t often do. I want to encourage them not to give up when people make fun of their dreams,” she explained.

Both works were created with the theme of empowering women and children with disabilities, and are available on the LetsReadAsia website. All of the books available on the site are reviewed before publication and feature attractive graphic design.

Meloney Lindberg, Asia Foundation representative in Cambodia, said the library is free for first-time readers aged 5 to 10. The library contains 9,000 books in 51 different languages, including more than 500 in Khmer.

“We have partnered with Starbucks for the important reason of promoting a culture of reading in Cambodia, which has to start with young children,” she said.

She offered her congratulations to the two young women who inaugurated their work and encouraged all young men and women to participate in activities that would benefit the development of the nation.