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08 Dec 05
'Big Books' project aims to spread the word on a variety of issues
Arusa Pisuthipan
'Big Books of Life', a series of 10 over-sized books, aims at disseminating practical information on global concerns to readers, especially the young. The first volume, `Tsunami Hope Project', deals with people who were affected by the tsunami.

Certain things should come in extra-large size - hope and encouragement, for example. The "Big Books of Life" project is trying to do just that.

The idea was to produce 10 oversized books, each taller than a human being, to disseminate useful, practical information on global concerns to readers, especially among the younger generations. Each book has its own specific theme. The first, entitled Tsunami Hope Project, contains the stories and experiences of people who were affected by the giant wave that swept through Southeast Asia last December.

"We started the project a year ago," said Craige Hovendove, chairman of the GoodNetwork System Company, which initiated the project. "At the end of last year, many countries were affected by the tsunami. We looked at the disaster and we saw hope. We saw something positive for the world that we can build on."

To draw the attention of children, and to make these stories - which are not always cheerful or simple - easier to understand, the giant books come in the form of comics.

They will be installed at the Bangkok Children's Discovery Museum, which has also expressed its full support for the project.

"The hardest thing in the children's learning process is how to get them appropriate access to useful information," said Suyitra Wuttithamrong, director of the Bangkok Children's Discovery Museum. "These big books will certainly have special appeal to kids, firstly because they are presented in the form of cartoons and secondly, and most importantly, because of their amazing size.

"Thai children have never been taught how to deal with natural disasters, not only the tsunami, but also other forms of catastrophe such as earthquakes, floods, fire and so on. So this project provides children with a good opportunity to learn about nature, to have more information about natural disasters and at the same time to raise their awareness regarding environmental concerns," Suyitra said.

Cartoon illustrations in these giant books were created by students from the Faculty of Fine and Applied Arts, Rangsit University. For the first volume about the tsunami, these university students tried to focus more on creativity and hope than the negative experiences of victims so as to help people move on after the tragedy.

"We tried to use bright colours in order to convey encouragement and to make it appealing to children," said Thammasak Ureraksakul, a lecturer in computer arts at the Faculty of Fine and Applied Arts, Rangsit University, who supervised the illustration crew.

The content of the oversized books will also be used to develop an online digital e-book community called the "Celebrity Reading Club". Various celebrity guests will join the club to read stories in these books for broadcast via the Internet.

"The tsunami affected 55 countries worldwide. Therefore, we want to find a way to disseminate the information in these big books throughout the world and the best way to do that is obviously through electronic media online," said Hovendove.

As for the hard copies, each book in the series will be published in different sizes ranging from over four metres tall to a more handy paperback size. The books will also be translated into various languages including English.

"The big book can be purchased by the public or any organisation that wants to make a donation to the tsunami victims," said John Rattanaveroj, one of the guest readers for the Celebrity Reading Club.

Once sales of the giant book reach 500 copies, it will earn a place in the Guinness Book of World Records, he added.

All the proceeds from the sale of these books will be given to children affected by the tsunami all over the world.

"It may take more than 10 years to fix everything. We can't help everyone so our focus is on helping children affected by the tsunami. Children are our future and their future is still in jeopardy," noted Hovendove.

One of the big books will be installed in Phangnga, one of the worst tsunami-hit spots, to commemorate the first anniversary of the tsunami on December 26 this year.

The next volumes in these "Big Books of Life" will cover other topics of global concern such as poverty, cultural understanding, education, drug awareness, peace, prevention of child abuse and so on.

The first volume of the oversized book will be launched on December 18, 2005, at Benjasiri Park, Sukhumvit Road. The opening ceremony will be presided over by Chairman of the Privy Council Gen Prem Tinsulanonda.
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