French NGO Sipar and Cambodia Airports – partners in the fight against illiteracy – this week published the second children’s book in a Khmer-language series titled Exploring Angkor.
In February 2012 the first book in the series was published, titled Exploring Angkor, Part 1: Angkor Wat Temple and Bayon Temple, which outlines the history of the two temples and gives explanations about the wall sculptures.
The new book published this week is titled Exploring Angkor, Part 2: Angkor Mysteries.
Hok Sothik, director of Sipar in Cambodia, said 5,000 copies of this new book have been published and launched at Monument Books in Siem Reap on Wednesday.
“We published part one to great success, so we decided to publish the second edition,” he said. “We aim to get young Cambodians to read these books so they can discover more about their heritage.”
He said the book will take readers on a wonderful journey starting in the Kulen Mountain, then descending down the Siem Reap River, passing 11 main sites and recounting their mysteries.
The 11 sites with their hidden mysteries are Kulen Mountain, Banteay Srey, Baray Neak Pean, Angkor Thom, the Royal Palace, Baphuon, Ta Prohm, Banteay Kdey, West Mebon, Koh Tameas and the Siem Reap International Airport, where archaeological research is being undertaken on land on the airport grounds before new buildings are constructed.
Hok Sothik said the 52-page book, “Provides unique details about the temples and sculptures surrounding the Siem Reap River through beautiful pictures, illustrations, diagrams, maps and text structured in a pleasant, enjoyable and educational way.”
He added that Angkor Mysteries is the result of a working group of about 30 people who are experts in the field of publishing, including editors, authors, illustrators and photographers, plus field researchers such archeologists, anthropologists and scientists.
He said the Sipar team, with more than 10 years of experience, has acquired the skills to teach kids to enjoy the process of reading and learning through books.
“I believe that children will like our new book as it is really easy to read and well documented. It should also attract youth to the process of learning,” he added.
The group took a year and half to complete the book, which will be placed in 300 libraries in Cambodia including schools, hospitals, prisons and mobile libraries. Sothik said that Sipar has decided to sell some books to the general public in order to sustain the activities of its publishing program and to contribute to the emergence of the Kingdom’s book market.
Contributors to the new book attended the launch on Wednesday at the Monument Book Ta Prohm store in Siem Reap, including representatives from Unesco, Ecole Française d’Extrême-Orient, and the Apsara Authority.
In the last two decades, Sipar has worked on its major objective: the fight for development through the promotion of reading and books in the Khmer language in all provinces. To date, Sipar’s publishing program has eight collections for all age ranges with more than 100 titles printed, totalling just over 1.3 million copies.
The new book is part of an overall collection titled, I Would Like to Know, consisting of 26 titles designed for youth and developed by the Sipar publishing program, to share the pleasures of knowledge by discovering facts about a wide range of diversified topics including history, nature, sciences, geography, culture and biographies of great people.
“This collection is unique in its kind, and provides general knowledge on various topics related to geography, history, sciences, health and the environment,” Sothik said.
In early March Sipar helped launch two new school buildings at the Rolous School, about 13 km from Siem Reap city. The buildings comprise nine new classrooms equipped with a new updated library that will benefit 1200 children.
It also launched Siem Reap Province’s first mobile library, a minivan, to bring books and to organise educational and reading-related activities to 10 villages in disadvantaged rural areas around Siem Reap city.
Both these initiatives were the result of what has been a 10-year partnership between Sipar, IWC Schaffhausen and the Antoine de Saint Exupéry Youth Foundation.