Over time we adopt new practices while leaving behind many more. Some may prove to be beneficial yet some may even evoke national concern. In the context of Bangladesh, the declining culture of reading storybooks among children is an example of the latter analogy. It’s important to make reading different types of books for children a priority, to help nurture their inner-potentials.
The revelation of such culture becomes more evident when most parents are unaware of the importance of paying a visit to the children’s library or bookshops.
On February 20, a seminar titled “Role of children’s storybooks and library in developing reading skills and habit” was held to emphasize the importance of the presence of storybooks and library in a child’s life. The seminar was held at the auditorium of Directorate of Primary Education (DPE). On the occasion of International Mother Language Day, a group of people from related areas gathered together at the seminar jointly organized by DPE and International NGO Room to Read Bangladesh (RtR-BD). It was a seminar where participants could hear each other out, as well as share their opinions.
Note from Room to Read
Room to Read’s Literacy program is part of the government primary schools, which is designed to enable children to become independent readers. Rakhi Sarkar, Country Director of Room to Read Bangladesh said, “Room to Read truly believes world change starts with educated children.” The international NGO Room to Read started its operations in Bangladesh in 2009. “numerous barriers prevent students from developing the literacy skills; of which lack of educational resources and minimal exposure to age-appropriate books are one of the most alarming gaps. This is the reason why Room to Read—besides other initiatives—is working to develop children’s reading skills and a habit of reading by establishing classroom libraries, and publishing and providing age-appropriate books to the primary school students,” she said.
It’s working with government primary schools, national educational institutes, community and parents. The program is designed to establish classroom libraries, train teachers to understand the key strategies of effective reading instruction, and increase access to age appropriate and culturally relevant reading materials including publishing children books. “Books developed by RtR, written by local authors and illustrators ensure they have high quality content,” added Rakhi Sarkar. She believes, it is important to provide children with storybooks and child-friendly learning environment to develop the quality of education in our country.
While explaining how the literacy program works, Literacy Director of RtR BD Zillur Rahman Siddiki, shed light on decoded text that enables children to create words from the alphabet and short stories from one word.
Guidance for the next generation
Renowned litterateur Selina Hossain provided further insight into the roles of children’s storybooks in shaping up a child’s life. She said, “Dialogues between teachers and students in internalizing topics of the stories will help them grow up to be better humans.”
Despite formal education, the Chairman of Bangladesh Shishu Academy, Selina Hossain believes additional reading is inevitable because of its huge role in learning values and ethics as well developing conscience at an early stage of life. Appreciating the ongoing efforts by Room to Read, she said, “I wish every corner of Bangladesh gets benefited from such initiatives.”
Reducing dropout rates
Raising concern towards the current state of the shocking culture of exam centric education, Ram Chandra Das, Project Director, Directorate of Primary Education said, “Only textbooks should not be at the heart of education, they are not enough.” However, the current approach regarding education is driving the next generation into a boundary where attaining good grades is the ultimate goal. “Besides textbooks, children should also become familiarized with Bangla storybooks,” he added.
Chief guest Md Ramjan Ali, Additional Director General, Directorate of Primary Education, said, “It is highly unlikely to bring about all the development by government all along. Room to Read is playing a key role by supporting government on achieving success in the two key thematic areas of SDGs goal 4, quality education and lifelong learning.”
The systemic approach in enhancing children’s reading skills has a slow yet sure impact on mounting their reading tendency and it is a noteworthy reflection earned in the course of his involvement with education. “Having an interest in reading different types of books can actually help decrease the number of dropouts among school students,” he added while drawing attention to high rates of primary school dropout.
The seminar provided a platform for education experts, academicians and government officials to share their ideas. Many recommendations and concerns were given by them, including making the RtR storybooks available for all children. Making these books available in the market and establishing classroom libraries in government primary schools were some of the pointers discussed.
On that note, Rakhi Sarkar mentioned that RtR has been working towards equipping the community through training and different intervention. Even if the program ends, these practices and the libraries should carry on.
Till date, Room to Read (RtR) covered about 3 lac children of more than 1 thousand government primary schools through its literacy program; and established around 6 thousand classroom libraries and published 103 Bangla storybooks of which about 8 lac copies have been distributed to the primary schools so far. (Source – Room to Read)