Asia Foundation and Samoa's first Book Lab

By Enid Westerlund. 19 March 2023, 2:00PM

Kids need books in the languages they speak. This is a simple idea but one that isn’t being realised for millions of children. Asia Foundation's 'Let’s Read Program' works with local writers and illustrators to create brand new story books with characters, themes, and settings that reflect and affirm kids’ lives.

'Let’s Read' encourages children, families, and communities to embrace reading by creating pathways to relevant Pacific reading content, in the form of digital and print books, and through impactful reading opportunities and free access to books. The 'Let’s Read' digital library currently holds more than 9,000 titles in more than 40 languages including Tok Pisin, Hiri Motu, Fijian, Fiji Hindi, Fiji Sign Language, and soon our own Samoan language. The Book Labs bring together authors, illustrators, translators, and editors to produce relatable, high-quality children's books in local languages. 

The Asia Foundation held its first Samoa Book Lab at Tanoa Tusitala Hotel this week from 13-17 March. The Book Lab brought together a group of local writers and illustrators who will create 10 fun, engaging books translated into Samoan, English, and other languages with characters, themes, and settings that Samoan kids can relate to, in both print and digital formats. All publications will be part of the free online library that can be accessed from anywhere around the world.

This has been a great opportunity for participating authors and illustrators to get in-person training and guidance from the Asia Foundation Program Team. The first Samoa book series is planned to be completed by the end of June this year. It is the hope of the Foundation to have printed copies for all schools and reading programs to help literacy programs in Samoa and encourage more children to read. It is open to partnerships from our own local groups who want to be a part of this initiative.

This program has many great opportunities for impact. The dual focus on creative Samoan content as well as schools, reading programs, public outreach, and campaigns that create fun reading experiences for children, families, and communities, means impacts could include improvements in children’s literacy and broader educational achievement, skills development within the Samoan creative sector and the promotion of Samoan culture through locally written stories.

Asia Foundation is a non-profit international development organisation committed to improving lives and expanding opportunities across Asia and the Pacific. Informed by decades of experience and deep local expertise, their work across the region is focused on good governance, women’s empowerment and gender equality, inclusive economic growth, environment and climate action, and regional and international relations.

“The Samoan book Lab has been an exciting and great learning experience. The Pacific Islands is a melting pot of culture, each country gives us different perspectives on identity while reaffirming the common bond we all share as Pacific Islanders. Samoa is no exception to this with the vibrant culture and strong values that is evident here," according to Krystelle Lavaki, who is the Program Officer for Pacific Islands, Asia Foundation.

"The pilot book lab highlighted the richness of talent and creativity in Samoa. Authors and illustrators not only demonstrated a commitment to improving literacy, but they also showed a multitude of writing and illustrating styles. I'm deeply humbled to have been given the chance to witness this in person and look forward to more publications and stories from Samoan creative."

By Enid Westerlund. 19 March 2023, 2:00PM
Samoa Observer

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