A Cambodian Library Built

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Library Project Complete

Thanks for your donationsA few months ago, I asked you for support to help me build a library for the high school students of my Cambodian community. I am so pleased to say that so many of you came through for them. Through generous donations, the library room has been fully renovated and stocked with a large selection of books and educational materials.

Thanks SO MUCH to those of you that donated to the grant!

Creating a New Clean Safe Reading Space

US Navy Sea Bees painting the library room at the Koh Andet High School, Koh Andet, Takeo Province, Cambodia

New wooden book shelves built by the US Navy Sea Bees for newly purchased books, part of Rich Durnan's library building project, Roh Minh, Koh Andet District, Takeo Provence, Cambodia Roh Minh, Koh Andet District, Takeo Provence, CambodiaIn addition to your support, I reached out to the network of resources I have built while here in Cambodia. I called the US Navy Seabees once again. A team came over the course of 4 Saturdays and worked along side the faculty and students of the high school. They moved all the old furniture out, cleaned and painted the entire library room. The Seabees then crafted new bookshelves across the back wall of the room. These sturdy new shelves will hold all the Government Text books that need to be stored in the summer between sessions.

Books for the Library

… From Colorado

A donation of old library books from teh Ridgway Elementary school library to support the building of a new library for the Kah Andet high School in Koh Andet, Takeo Province,  Cambodia.

The Ridgway Elementary School in my US home made a generous donation of about 40 English books for the library. Thanks to Librarian Melissa for making that happen, and thanks to my friend Chris who hand carried the books to us here in Cambodia by donating one of his entire checked bags for the task. The selection of English books has made a valuable addition to the library.

 … New From Phnom Penh

Student and teacher libraryu committee members volunteering to purchase books fo rthe new school library in Phnom Penh, Koh Andet District, Takeo Provence, Cambodia

Barak Obama biography book in the Khmer language, part of Rich Durnan's library building project, Roh Minh, Koh Andet District, Takeo Provence, Cambodia Roh Minh, Koh Andet District, Takeo Provence, CambodiaI traveled to Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital city, with two students, one of the librarians, and Samon, an English teacher. We purchase new books and supplies for the library. I essentially left book selection in the hands of these four representatives, and they chose what they thought would be best for their school library.




Student and teacher libraryu committee members volunteering to purchase books fo rthe new school library in Phnom Penh, Koh Andet District, Takeo Provence, Cambodia
We shopped at 4 major booksellers and selected from nearly every category to create an inventory of both English and Khmer books. We purchased 914 new books, and other resources with the money donated to this project!

Getting Organized

Koh Andet teachers helping to log and creagte a catagorizing system for the new books purchased for teh school library with grant funds, Koh Andet District, Takeo Provence, Cambodia
Color tape categorizing system for the new books purchased for the school library with grant funds, Koh Andet District, Takeo Provence, CambodiaOver the next few weeks, I met with the librarians and students to organize the books. The librarians and I made an inventory of all the books dividing them into categories. We created a simple indexing system using colored tape. Each category was assigned a color, and each book got a corresponding piece of colored tape on its spine. A number on the colored tape designates subcategories.

Students of the Roh Minh High School making plastic protective book covers for newly purchased books, part of Rich Durnan's library building project, Roh Minh, Koh Andet District, Takeo Provence, Cambodia Roh Minh, Koh Andet District, Takeo Provence, Cambodia

Students of the Roh Minh High School making plastic protective book covers for newly purchased books, part of Rich Durnan's library building project, Roh Minh, Koh Andet District, Takeo Provence, Cambodia Roh Minh, Koh Andet District, Takeo Provence, CambodiaEach book then got a hand made protective plastic cover. I noticed many of the students would make plastic covers to protect their textbooks. Insects, mice, humidity, rainwater, and dirty hands are all hard on books here in Cambodia. I thought covers for the library books would help extend their lives, so I recruited the students and they created covers for every book.

Students of the Roh Minh High School making plastic protective book covers for newly purchased books, part of Rich Durnan's library building project, Roh Minh, Koh Andet District, Takeo Provence, Cambodia Roh Minh, Koh Andet District, Takeo Provence, Cambodia
I think this was great fun for the students. They spent almost as much time reading and exploring all the new books as they did making the covers. Students of the Roh Minh High School making plastic protective book covers for newly purchased books, part of Rich Durnan's library building project, Roh Minh, Koh Andet District, Takeo Provence, Cambodia Roh Minh, Koh Andet District, Takeo Provence, Cambodia

Moving In

Detail of the newly purchased books all organized in the new bookcase, part of Rich Durnan's library building project, Roh Minh, Koh Andet District, Takeo Provence, Cambodia Roh Minh, Koh Andet District, Takeo Provence, CambodiaOver several days I worked with the students to set up the newly renovated library room and organize the books on the shelves. 



New wooden book shelves built by the US Navy Sea Bees for newly purchased books, part of Rich Durnan's library building project, Roh Minh, Koh Andet District, Takeo Provence, Cambodia Roh Minh, Koh Andet District, Takeo Provence, Cambodia
Part of the money donated went to buying a protective glass case. This case holds all the new books and provides protection for the collection.

Students of the Roh Minh High School hanging newly purchased visual materials, part of Rich Durnan's library building project, Roh Minh, Koh Andet District, Takeo Provence, Cambodia Roh Minh, Koh Andet District, Takeo Provence, Cambodia

The student decorated the room with the many educational posters and maps we purchased.

Roh Minh, Koh Andet District, Takeo Provence, Cambodia

It took them no time to start using these resources.

Roh Minh, Koh Andet District, Takeo Provence, Cambodia
Today students rotate through the library in their classes on a daily basis utilizing the books. Independent visitation is also occurring during non class hours allowing the students an opportunity to explore and read on their own for fun.

Students using the new High School library, Roh Minh, Koh Andet District, Takeo Provence, Cambodia Roh Minh, Koh Andet District, Takeo Provence, Cambodia
Why Read for Fun?

Students using the new High School library, Roh Minh, Koh Andet District, Takeo Provence, Cambodia Roh Minh, Koh Andet District, Takeo Provence, Cambodia
One reason is because research has confirmed the benefits of Extensive Reading (ER) especially for learning a foreign language. ER exposes the reader to authentic language, helps students remember language they already learned, and increases their ability to learn and understand new language, especially new vocabulary. The idea of reading for pleasure is a new concept in Cambodian schools. Lack of book availability is one problem, but another is just plain not realizing the value in it. The Cambodian school system does not normally make room for alternate styles of learning such as free reading. I am hoping I have helped to change this in my village. 

RPCV Robert Cunningham teaching a seminar on the Extensive reading program to the English teachers of Koh Andet Commune as part of Rich Durnan's library building project, Roh Minh, Koh Andet District, Takeo Provence, Cambodia

Robert Cunningham is a former PCV who worked at this same school as an English teacher several years before me. He still lives and teaches in Cambodia, and has retained a strong connection to this community. When I told Robert about this library project, he offered his support in the form of an Extensive Reading seminar. Robert has been working with this program at the private school he teaches at in Phnom Penh.

In a presentation to the English teachers, Robert explained how this system encourages the use of pleasure reading to improve student learning. By directing students to level appropriate books, allowing students to pick the books that interest them, and without the pressure of it being a graded exercise, tremendous results have been seen in improving students’ ability to learn English. With the library’s new inventory of books, the ER method is now possible for the students. I hope that it will catch on making use of the new library resources.

If you are interested you can learn more about this program and the Extensive Reading Foundation on their web site here.

5 responses to “A Cambodian Library Built”

  1. Mary McCutchan says:

    Thanks for the story and photos! Very inspiring! Hooray for reading!

  2. Dear Rich, Congratulations! What a gift to the community. Yes, Hooray for reading AND books.

  3. Connie says:

    What a wonderful beginning for these students…..and to think “your” friends have played a part in their learning…..Great job, Rich!!!!!

  4. Andy says:

    Kudos! Thanks for the follow-up. Wherever you are Rich, your energies yield huge benefits for your community. There is poetic resonance in the Ridgway book connection, since that is another village you have worked hard for.

  5. Kellie says:

    Rich, I am so moved by all you’ve done with these kids. What a wonderful experience for them! GREAT WORK!

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