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In Vietnam, parents are vital guides for children in search of knowledge: book advocate

In Vietnam, parents are vital guides for children in search of knowledge: book advocate

Friday, June 14, 2024, 18:00 GMT+7
In Vietnam, parents are vital guides for children in search of knowledge: book advocate
Young translator Lily (C) and her father at the ‘The Silk Roads’ book launch. Photo: Q.T. / Tuoi Tre

Editor’s note: In this submission to Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper, Nguyen Quang Thach, renowned for ‘Sach Hoa Nong Thon’ – an initiative aimed at providing books to children in the rural areas of Vietnam, discusses how he drew inspiration from a young book translator.

Ho An Nhien, an 11-year-old book translator from Hanoi who goes by the name Lily, has drawn both admiration and skepticism for her collection of self-translated books.

In 2022, Vietnamese readers aross the country were wowed by Lily’s translation of ‘Unstoppable Us.’

By May 2024, she had competed her fifth translation – ‘The Silk Roads.’

A commitment to learning

At just eight years old, Lily translated her first books – a trilogy of picture books titled ‘The Guardians of Childhood,’ which was published as a joint project between Hanoi-based publishing unit Book Hunter and Da Nang Publishing House in 2021.

A few months later, Lily was approached by publisher Omega Plus Book to translate two mass-market historical works – ‘Unstoppable Us’ by Yuval Noah Harari and ‘The Silk Roads’ by Peter Frankopan.

Lily’s success as a translator is owed, at least in part, to her mother’s lifelong love of reading; her father – a lecturer who shares his passion for literature with Lily; her grandfather who worked as a professor of medicine; and her grandmother who constantly pushed her to continue on the pursuit of knowledge.

It was their collective efforts which laid the foundations for Lily’s penchant for reading.

Did you ever patiently read books with your children when they were young?

Have you ever listened attentively to the stories your children told about the picture books they read?

Have you engaged in discussions about philosophy or finances when your children brough up those topics?

For Lily’s parents, engaging in these discussions over the past 11 years has been critical to rasising an imaginative, curious child.

They helped Lily build a bilingual vocabulary bank, nurturing her understanding and fostering creative expression, debate, and mutual learning.

Lily’s five translated works symbolize not only her dedication to learning but also the unwavering support and guidance of her parents.

Her success underscores the undeniable truth that family education provides a formidable foundation for every child’s journey.

Book lovers unite!

In addition to writing translations, Lily also participates in projects that help books reach rural readers.  

These projects often include mobilizing financial resources from book translations in order to build libraries in rural classrooms and fill them with books during Lunar New Year celebrations.

Lily and her family are well aware that their ability to participate in these initatives stems from a strong foundation of professional knowledge. 

But how can children without such a foundation gain exposure to tomes at a young age and be supported in their quest for knowledge?

For decades, spanning from the 1970s to the present, tens of millions of children growing up in rural areas have had limited access to books and educational opportunities.

In preschool, elementary, and middle school, these students have been deprived of the opportunity to read and listen to books.

Consequently, as adults, many lack an understanding of the value of books, hindering their spiritual and eduational growth, as well as their abilities to learn life skills and values.

Even more concerning is many parents' lack of interest in reading to their children.

If this intergenerational poverty of knowledge persists, individuals and society will surely stagnate.

While many parents might not have had the opportunity to study in the UK like Lily’s parents, most, if not all, possess the ability to read and are able to read books with their children from a tender age.

Parents must understand that while a bookshelf full of tomes in a classroom might only cost a few million Vietnamese dong [VND1 million = US$39], the long-term value of each book is priceless.

Simultaneously, Vietnam’s education system must adapt to that of developed countries, incorporating parenting education as a core component.

Even parents who may not have the habit of reading books with their children will gradually adopt this practice through the influence of schools and society.

During the academic years, resources amounting to billions of Vietnamese dong [VND1 billion = $39,305] can be mobilized from parents, teachers, and alumni to ensure that tens of millions of books reach children both at school and at home.

The educational revolution in Vietnam must ensure that all children have access to books, mirroring the opportunities available to children in Western Europe, America, Japan, and elsewhere.

With hope, over the next two decades, society will witness the emergence of many individuals like Lily who are capable of excelling in various fields and contributing to the enrichment of the country’s knowledge base.

This will lead to the creation of numerous intellectual products, akin to what Japan, South Korea, Israel, and other nations have achieved.

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