In order to help cultivate a market for high-quality early reading material and build local capacity for translated works, The Asia Foundation’s Books for Asia program has partnered with the Myanmar Book Center on a pilot project to translate, print, and distribute storybooks from top American publishers into Myanmar language.We are in discussions with children’s book publisher Barefoot Books on the translation of four of their basic reading titles for our inaugural Books for Myanmar collection.
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In the future, we hope to expand this project to include Myanmar’s minority languages and support workshops for local authors, illustrators, and publishers in creating their own content.
A dedicated Books for Myanmar fund to support these activities has been kick-started by the generous donations of individuals.
Schools are currently poorly equipped, and educational materials are often of low quality and outdated.
Recent steps taken by the government point to its recognition that, in order for Myanmar to move forward, larger investments need to be made in education.
Many book publishers are small operations that would consider a printing of 3,000 books a large print run.
Furthermore, they are financially hampered by a reading public that needs to spend an average of 68 percent of the household budget on food alone.
Justifying books for leisure reading in this environment is far from simple.
Tha Tun Oo and Myo Myint Maung, managing director of Sarpay Beikman, the government publishing house and largest publisher in the country, both cite training and help with obtaining translation rights as the biggest areas in which publishers need assistance.
“The role of translation of English-language materials into Myanmar is crucial in the process.” Furthermore, the Myanmar government, too, needs access to international sources of information as they institute reforms and catch up with their neighbors and the world after so many decades of isolation.