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"When we create something tangible for the students, that’s what love is."

An interview with Ms. Ngân, a national core facilitator of Room to Read’s library model in Ninh Thuận Province, Vietnam | June 03, 2024

Educator training and coaching Program delivery Vietnam

Meet Mai Thị Kim Ngân, a specialist with Vietnam’s Department of Education and Training and a national core facilitator of Room to Read’s Literacy Program in Tây Ninh Province, Vietnam. Ms. Ngân has directly implemented and expanded Room to Read libraries across Dương Minh Châu District — helping to train educators, fill library shelves, create child-friendly reading spaces and benefit more children, more quickly.

Read on for a short interview between Ms. Ngân and Room to Read's literacy team in Vietnam and learn why she thinks of libraries as love. 


 Mai Thị Kim Ngân in A Room to Read classroom in Vietnam.

 

 

When did you first learn about the Room to Read library model? 

In 2017. I realized Room to Read’s approach was strategic, helping children catch up quickly to national literacy standards. The model emphasized that through reading, students can enhance their knowledge and awareness of the world around them, building social-emotional skills while improving their reading and communication skills. From there, I had great faith in the program, seeing it not as an additional task but as an important professional duty to implement, maintain and expand libraries in the locality. 


Encouraging schools to implement a library expansion is never easy, especially in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent economic challenges. Can you share your experience working with Room to Read to support school library expansion?

To reduce the economic pressure on schools, my approach is to start with schools that already have a library room, so the renovation work is less demanding. We keep existing bookshelves and repaint them according to book-level color codes. If the shelves are too high for young children, I suggest that the school cut them down, or decorate the higher shelves with flowers or child-friendly murals, placing books only on the lower shelves so they can be easily accessed by the children.  
 
When presented with limited book purchasing funds, we can often strategize the most effective ways to stretch available resources within the school and mobilize the community to donate books. From there, I support the school in selecting the titles that are most age-appropriate, culturally relevant and inviting to young readers. Additionally, maintaining regular connections with parents is very important, especially during library inaugurations and reading days. When parents see the benefit of the library and library instruction, they are more engaged and supportive, and help children create reading spaces at home.


 
 

 

How do you maintain your enthusiasm for this work? 

I want students to have a place at school they are always excited to visit every day. Instead of just saying the words "Everything for our beloved students," I want to take real action. When we create something tangible for the students, that’s what love is. Once, I visited a Room to Read school library during class time and saw a child engrossed in reading. I learned that the child was autistic. The librarian said the child came to the library whenever possible and read with great passion. 

Another time, just after schools reopened post Covid-19 and distancing was still required, the first thing the children asked me was, "When can we go back to the library?" When the library reopened, the children eagerly rushed in. Moments like these are very touching for me. I think the library is so beneficial that if I don't work on it, it feels like I'm failing the children.  


 

 

But not all places have smooth library operations. What do you do when presented with challenges? 

When things are difficult, we get creative (laughs)! Some schools lack dedicated library staff, so the principal and vice-principal must manage the library and handle records. Teachers offer support by opening and closing the library and organizing library reading sessions in the classroom or the library. Students help teachers arrange books and clean up the library after use. I believe that if we truly want to do something, there are many ways to achieve it. 

 

 

You’ve worked with Room to Read a long time. If you could describe the organization in one word, what would it be? 

Friendly — from the staff to the program and the implementation, this spirit is very clear. Previously, when schools heard that the Department of Education was preparing to visit, they felt pressured and anxious. But with Room to Read’s support, schools are prepared, confident and relaxed when the Department of Education makes a visit. We focus on training and supporting schools to run their libraries effectively to help students build strong literacy schools, creating a friendly and welcoming atmosphere. 

The years working with Room to Read have strengthened my passion for students and my desire to contribute to education. At Room to Read, I received thorough guidance on training skills, classroom management and systematic library implementation. Without Room to Read, I would not be the person I am today, and I'm grateful to the organization for helping me find this passion. 

Thank you very much, and we wish you good health and joy in your work and life!



 

Room to Read partners with primary schools in Vietnam and around the world to establish child-friendly libraries. And, we advocate with governments to ensure all children have access to a library filled with developmentally appropriate, diverse and engaging books.

We also train teachers and librarians in literacy and library best practices — and it shows! Grade 2 children in Room to Read partner schools read on average more than twice as many correct words per minute and correctly answer 70 percent more comprehension questions compared to their peers in comparison schools.

This month, we are teaming up with the Varkey Foundation to DOUBLE the impact of every donation made before June 30 while funds remain. 

Donate today and your gift will go 2X as far to help us accelerate and expand our educator trainings to benefit more students, more quickly.

 

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