Inspiring children through reading activities

Outreach Blog

by Petricia A. Hutasoit (education staff)

As a wise man once said that book is “a window to the world” Anak Sebangau Education Programme has inspired the children to go to many places, have an adventure in the fairy world, get to know animals world, venture many places through reading. This reading activity was carried out in the village of Kereng Bangkirai, the entrance gate to the largest peatswamp forest of Borneo, Sebangau.

Within these children community, reading is not a common thing due to the difficult access to the book. Besides, almost all the bookstores usually provide only course books and parents are unaware of the importance of reading for their children. Having said that, we try to initiate reading activities for these less fortunate children on regular basis. We provide some boxes of books in every meeting that makes children happy.  They enthusiastically welcome our team that comes along with 2 large boxes of books for the children to read as they want. The genre of the books we bring is varied ranging from encyclopedias, folklore, stories of world figures, educational comics, fiction to the English books.


Anak Sebangau selected the books in the reading box
Photo by Petricia A. Hutasoit | Borneo Nature Foundation

Normally, the children will choose the book that they want to read first, then get a mat from Lepironia articulata and find a cozy place around “pondok” (humpy) or under the tree and read together in group. Sometimes when they are curious about English book, they will ask one of Education staff to read it for them. These children will be asked to pronounce some words together. The reason why we put the English books inside the box is that we want to encourage them to learn English by starting from a book they chose.

We got the books from donation of Ransel Buku, and also form “Akan borneo” project. BNF has long partnered with Ransel Buku and together we kickstarted a project called “Akan borneo”  which is for in Dayak Language and To in Bahasa Indonesia, it ’s based in Bali, everyone could donate several items such as art supplies, books, and board games. “Akan Borneo” project gives the opportunity for Anak Sebangau to improve their literacy by reading some good books. However, those books do not belong to Anak Sebangau, because we also shared the books to other children. Yet, the children are able to borrow the books when they finish reading it, we will then exchange the book to other books.  Again, Ransel Buku has been very helpful in donating these books to needy children. In addition to that, some of our volunteers also donated some books to Anak Sebangau.

The reading activity has been running for more than 1 year, we hope to generate an imagination of these children through reading activities. The children not only could read at the time, but we also allow them to bring the book home, bring it next week and exchange the reading stories to their friend. Bringing the book home has helped the children to have more time enjoying the stories of the books. We hope no only inspire the children to read, but also inspire their families to read and train their self-confidence by retelling the contents of the book to friends in addition to seeing children’s perspective on the story of the book.

There are many interesting stories behind the reading activities, one of Anak Sebangau’s member named Naysila said that she’s happy because she can read a good book that she never had before, one of her favourite books is “ 303+ Pengetahuan Paling Menakjubkan.”  Now that I know about the records in the world” with a big smile. Another story from a girl named Putri Laila, who shared her experience about her book that she brings at home. She told  that her 4-year-old sister was curious about the book she brought home entitled “Ketika Gilang Ingin seperti ka Sita “ (When Gilang wanted to be like Sita), when Laila fell asleep the sister entered her room secretly and opened the book, when Laila woke up her sister opened the book again and told her about story based on the picture she saw in her own language, Laila was happy because her sister read her story with a different version of the book until she unconsciously fell asleep again, in the morning her mother laughed at Laila because he fell asleep when her sister  read a story for her, her mother said that it must have been her sister that reads the book for Laila. Knowing that then they laughed together. On the other hand, some children are still shy to tell the stories the book they read, usually, we will give them more time until they are ready.

We know it’s not easy to build a reading culture in the rural area, but we do believe by how reading serves as an important role for children development. Let’s spread a good habit.