Rotary Library Project helps kids develop good learning habits at a tender age
How passionate can you be about educating young children to travel almost 1000 kilometres to attend 2 days of training sitting outside in tropical temperatures? This is what happened to some of the 100 teachers and day care centre managers who are dedicated to change their children’s future and who travelled from all over the 29 provinces in northeastern (Isaan) and eastern Thailand.
This part of Thailand depends on agricultural activities yet is subject to unpredictable seasonal drought. Economic and social conditions of the majority of people are at poverty level. Both parents often have to work long hours each day, while sending their young preschoolers to a day care centre. There are often no facilities, and one passionate and dedicated teacher has to look after up to 40 little children.
Rotarians from Japan, Australia, USA and Thailand hand over a library during this ceremony.
The first 5 to 7 years of a child can be very important in regards to the success in later life. We know that words are the primary structure for learning. We only have to look in history where dictators often prohibited their citizens from reading or possessing books, too afraid that they might become smart and revolt against him. It has been proven that students who read the most, read the best, and often achieve the most. As for little children who cannot read themselves, being read to, by using good picture books, offers many advantages. It helps them with a better vocabulary, they provide support for the kind of character we hope to see developed in our children, but they can also learn anything in and about the world without the real experience.
Children books have only been around in this country for about 20 years, and most adults have never been read to or read themselves as a child. A local non-government organisation, the Tai Wisdom Association, has been working in this part of the country to change this by offering education and training about reading to children and the importance of it.
Gale and Bryan are quite moved by the Rotarians generosity.
Six years ago the initiative of Past District Governor Somchai Chiaranapanit and Rotarians in district 3340 of Rotary International was to help these needy kids by providing them with opportunities to develop their brain based learning and sound reading habits at a critical age of development – up to the age of seven.
This ‘Library for Kids and Family’ project provides day care centres and schools with books and bookshelves as well as training to the teachers in how to read aloud and use the stories to educate the children.
Many teachers gain a lot of benefit from the training and are very enthusiastic about using the picture books. One teacher commented, “I never understood why there were only one or two sentences on a page or sometimes no words at all, but now after the training I know what to do and how to use these books.” The books are of high quality, not only in content, as many of them are favourite classics, but also in making; the good quality paper and covers are a pleasure to just hold.
The success of the project is not to just donate books. Even in the western world there are many books around and yet we see a decline in literacy and reading. The success is due to the dedication of the schoolteachers, day care centre managers and solid training on how to use the books. Training involves tips on how to read aloud to the children, activities they can do based on the story read, how to look after the books, etc. Each trained person than return to their own community, often training others, and implementing what they have learned. Over the years we had some great stories how this project has impacted children.
Creative ways are used to stimulate the children to read.
The 11 year old Nakarin attends a standard 5 class in a very remote school in Nakhon Phanom, and cannot read or write and never showed any signs that he wanted to learn. He refused any help from his teacher and refused to participate. After the school received the books from the library project a new approach of teaching was implemented by both teachers and students. Slowly Nakarin started to join the group, and this changed his behaviour. As he tried to read aloud very slowly, little signs of happiness and hope spread across his face. Now he wants to bring his favourite books and read them to his family, who attend the Buddhist temple every Sunday.
So far over 81000 books have been distributed to 325 recipients like schools, public libraries and day care centres. More than 700 teachers have been trained. Thanks to 34 local Rotary clubs and support from Rotarians from Australia, USA, Japan, Indonesia, Taiwan and Singapore already many lives of children have been changed. And with each training and handover more requests are made from other schools and day care centres far and beyond to be part of this library project and to make a change in their own local community.
Erich Fromm wrote in “The Art of Loving” that children need both milk and honey from their parents and carers. Milk symbolises the care given to physical needs like getting enough sleep, eating healthy food. Honey symbolises the sweetness in life, that special quality that makes life enjoyable. How wonderful to think that we can give the children the world by giving them access to books and great stories.
Famous author Cheewan Visasa shows off his collection of children’s books.
Chandra LaHusen (USA) holds a baby eager to read books.
Children welcome Past President Michitaro Morita from Japan.
The expression in the little children’s face is worth all the effort we put in.
Teachers gain a lot of benefit from the training and are very enthusiastic about using the picture books.
Reading aloud really got these children captivated even after reading it dozens of times.