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66th IFLA Council and General

Jerusalem, Israel, 13-18 August


Code Number: 091-175(WS)-E
Division Number: III
Professional Group: Mobile Libraries: Workshop
Joint Meeting with: -
Meeting Number: 175
Simultaneous Interpretation:   No  

Mobile library program in Thailand border areas

Chantana Parkbonngkoch
Behavioral Science Research Institute, Srinakharinwirot University
Bangkok, Thailand


If you ever have the chance to visit the refugee camp, you will realize how lucky you are and how importance the freedom and independence are. Even though one may not own any piece of land yet the freedom of being free in one's homeland is the most valuable. Some said, "You never know until you have lost it."

During 1986?1988, I had the chance to take part in the training program in the refugee camps in the eastern north eastern and northern parts of Thailand at Kao E?Dang, Arunya Prathet, Bann Vina, Leoi; and Chieng Khum, Chiengrai. Experience in the refugee camps was most valuable for me. From my perspective, life in each camp was interesting. The services and sufficient food and services from many agencies and organizations under the responsibility of the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioners for Refugees) seemed to compensate for their loss of homeland and independence in one level. Without earning their living, they have sufficient four basic needs for life: food, clothes, medical and shelters. However, the suffering from the war and being away from their homeland caused them stress and cultural lags. The re habitations in psychological aspect was promoted. Their psychological problems did affected their parental skills and child rearing practices in certain levels. CYR (Care for Young Refugee) and ESF (Ecole San Frontiers) provided activities for promoting all areas of development of young children through day care centers, adult education , and income generating programs.

One interesting program that I called "mobile library" was composed of the tall wooden cabinet containing of books and toys for young children. The cart/cabinet with 4 wheels could be used as the curtain/stage for the puppet show. Children and their parents enjoyed listening to story telling and puppet shows very much. While young children were playing toys, drawing on the ground or papers with crayon or doing some art activities, The facilitators, parents were trained by volunteers to read books for children, to talk and to tell stories to children. Parents also helped make children's toys, and were encouraged to collect folktales and traditional toys and lullaby to conserve their culture.

Sometimes the teenage facilitators performed drama. The famous one was "Mama Clean". This was the highlight of performance in the refuge camp. Always a big crowd to see this most interesting drama with the masks. Life in the refugee camp was usually quiet. Without television, or radio in the camp the drama became the most interesting events for them. "Mama Clean" reminded young children to clean their hands before eating and take a bath more carefully. After the drama, some facilitators told stories or read books to young children. These were the wonderful mobile library programs for enhancing love of reading in young children.

A group of Thai academic consultants led by Professors Dr. Aree Sunhachawee of Srikharinwirot University had worked with volunteers and facilitators in this mobile library or moving theatre program. The program so successful that several volunteers would like to introduce this program to Thai villages near the refugee camps.

Thai people in the villages around refugee camps were very poor. Children looked miserable and unhealthy while children in the refugee camps looked healthier and happier than Thai children. This disturbed me greatly. I was happy to take part in this program then. Although, at first we hardly get any funding from the two agencies for children in the refugee camps. However, we received later a small amount of fund for the application of early childhood program for Thai children around the refugee camps.

The objectives of the program were as follows:

  • to train Thai village youths to be community volunteers, or youth leaders.
  • to empower youth leaders in the villages and the refugee camps and border areas for the security and solidarity of the country.
  • to promote the skills and techniques in working with parents in order to enhance all areas of development of young children, especially the reading habit and
  • to develop human relationship with people in the community. I was invited to be the resource person of this training program to promote the development of Thai children. The target group was the community volunteers in the border areas. The villages were small and very poor that they did not have any child center. With the collaborative of community development personals, Department of Community Development, Ministry of Interior, two volunteers were selected from 35 villages to participate in the program. They joined the program as the community volunteers without any pay. Their age ranged from 15?20 years. From five day and five night workshop, they were promoted to be home visitors to help parent understand and enhance the developmental levels of young children as much as they could. Song and story telling techniques were emphasized.

    From the first day training, the resource persons were worried about the abilities of the youth leaders to work with children. Some of them seemed too young to work with parents and children. Some lacked of confidence. Some could not read well. We have to give them a lot of encouragement to enhance their self?esteem and self?confidence. What we could do was trying to inspire them to love and value young children as much as we can. We encouraged them with songs such as "Flowers of Hope," "I Can Do" including words of inspiration every morning, afternoon and night. We tried to make them realize that in the border areas, all of them were invaluable persons that can make the changes in the life of parent and child. Most of the time, our training was emphasized on practising and improving their skills. The developmental guidelines handbook were explored and studied from 3 areas of development centers: social and emotion, physical, intellectual development. The community volunteers enjoyed singing the inspiring songs as well as children songs. Their roles were to tell stories to children with books and puppets.

    We took them to practice story telling and using developmental guidelines in one village in order to experience real life situations. Some could not tell story in front of the audience. I allowed them to work in pair with young children. After they gained more confidence, I observed them closer. Some enjoyed telling stories with puppets within the large group. They joined their friends using the cloth as the stage for the puppet show and performed the show together. They also practised working with parents using the developmental guidelines. In the evening, they shared their experiences and discussed about the problems and suggestions for their work. They gradually developed their abilities as well as their personality.

    With small financial assistance, we gave each youth leader a package consisted of one developmental guidelines handbook with a few pieces of materials, one 'phakow?ma' (multi purpose cloth) for puppet show, two hand puppets, two story?books for children, and one book with 60 stories. There was very few or not at all children book in the village. After 3 months of working with children with story telling, songs and reading the books and working with parents with the assessment and discussions on the development of young children using the handbook, the youth leaders were invited to the two?day and one night workshop for the follow up and evaluation of the program. There were some evidences on their changes. Most of them seemed to be more active and more confident. Most of them told us that people loved and trust in them. From group discussions and interviews, they said that they became the beloved person of young children. The youth leaders became the popular person in the village!! Children loved to listen to story telling and reading the books. Some lost their books because some children borrowed from them. People gave them fruits and crop products. They visited parents with friendly atmosphere. They helped parents on child rearing, enhance the development of young children in each age. They helped parents how to promote their children's language development and love of reading. Their contributions for children and people in the village without pay must be highly regarded. Such a fine and beautiful relationship! One of them was offered a child care center built from the contributions of people in the village! I missed all of them and proud of them. I should have enough time and sufficient funding to visit these volunteers and extend the program. I know that all of them gradually became the qualified youth leaders. Their kindness could be the ray of sunlight in parents and young children lives in border areas as well as their own lives.

    According to the accomplishment of this program, it inspired me to set up a training program for the aids or childcare workers in urban day care centers. I believed in the potential of love of young children and to be loved among parent? child and the volunteers. It also inspired me to conduct an experimental research sponsored by WHO (World Health Organization) on the study on "Fun and Creative Packages for Parent ?Child Interaction" on social adjustment program in the slum area at Din?Deang district, Bangkok, Thailand. The packages that consisted of a set of constructive play, pamphlet for parent?child interaction, and a story book for decentering of egocentrism with a few questions. Fifteen packages used in this study were brought to young children with parents on the playground every weekend for 4 months. That was an experimental research of two groups. Another group pick up the packages from the teachers in the schools. I found that the group of children that parents came to join the activities at the playground could develop their social adjustment better than the group of children that parents picked up the packages at the school.

    From my report, you can see the variety of reach out programs for young children in rural areas and urban areas. Most of them emphasized on promoting child development using effective adult child interaction as well as language development. Love of reading can be promoted by increasing the number of story-books accessible to children.


    There were mobile library programs in the refugee camps that were adapted to the needs and life in the camps. They emphasized on promoting the development of young children and love of reading though story telling and puppets. At the same time parents were encouraged to make toys and tell stories to their children. The mobile library also served as moving theatre. Facilitators performed masked play to attract audience and give the message, and then telling folktales and reading books and providing children with puppet and crayons to do art activities.

    There was a program adapted to Thai children outside the refugee camps near the border. The program was to train volunteers from the villages without childcare center. The training emphasized on story telling, singing and book reading techniques for young children. They also were trained to assess the development of children using developmental guidelines. The success of this program inspired the writer to work with child care workers in urban areas and conducted a research in slum area in Bangkok using parental education packages that were comprised of activities and story books for decentering of egocentrism. Social adjustment of young children whose parents picked up the packages at the playground was higher than those whos parents picked up the packages at the school. These were mobile library programs that inspired love of reading for young children.


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