Phnom Penh, 12 March, 2017 – World Vision celebrated Cambodia’s second National Reading Day on 11 March 2017, by holding events at 43 primary schools across the country, with a survey result revealing that many students want more amount and variety of books and better reading environment in the library.
World Vision held reading events in nine provinces including Banteay Meanchey, Battambang, Kampong Chhnang, Kampong Speu, Kampong Thom, Kandal, Prey Vihear, Siem Reap, and Takeo. Activities, aimed at celebrating reading and promoting the key message that reading is for everyone, included adults reading aloud to children, and children reading out loud with their peers.
Last year Prime Minister Hun Sen declared a National Reading Day in Cambodia which was first celebrated on 11th March 2016 with the aim of fostering reading habits among young students.
Attaining literacy for children is still a huge challenge in Cambodia. A 2012 assessment showed that only two-thirds of children in grade 2 could read with understanding. An assessment of 6 graders carried out in 2013 by the Ministry of Education Youth and Sport revealed that only 45.7 per cent of students passing Khmer.
Research by World Vision in 2016 suggested that only one-quarter of schools met the Government standards for reading resources.
It is with these statistics in mind that World Vision brought together school directors, teachers, parents and students to exchange ideas and seek to understand the situation and access to school libraries.
Over 4,000 students voted for the standard they wanted most to be improved. Coming out on top with 25% of the vote was ‘more amount and variety of books’, followed by ‘better reading environments’ with 12%, and ‘conducting reading activities in the library’ with 10% of the vote.
“While there is a growing awareness in Cambodia that reading is important, there is a lot of work to be done to foster a true reading culture. For many children, the only reading material they have is a textbook, because books are considered a luxury, and reading is not something people choose to take time for. There aren’t enough appropriately written Khmer language materials for beginning readers; and many families don’t understand the importance of literacy,” said Dr. Jill Reimer, World Vision's Education & Life Skills Technical Lead.
“Improving library facilities is one action the Government could take to make it easier and more fun for students to learn and practice reading. We hope that local government authorities take these results seriously and commit to improving the environment for reading in their local skills. The reading deficit in Cambodia has implications for the future and could ultimately affect the country’s ability to compete in a global economy,” Dr. Reimer continued.
Mr. Yin Sakte, the head of Spean Tomlop primary school in Kandal province, said he was encouraged by the enthusiasm of students and community members at the event.
“I want this celebration to happen every year. It helps build reading habit among both the young and the old,” Mr. Sakte said.
“I will commit to work out a schedule for students and teachers to spend more time reading at the library,” he continued.
Ms. Van Samy, the principal at Thlok Chrov primary school and temporary school librarian in Kampong Chhnang commented, “we lack a librarian who works regularly. With a librarian, it means that the library will be open more often and it means that more students can go there to read. We also lack reading materials.”
Expressing her delight, Ms Samy spoke of her school being chosen to host the Reading Day event; “This Day is important as it reminds both children and their parents about the value of reading. And we know that the more reading resources we have in the library, the more students can learn and understand,” she said.
Note to Editors:
World Vision is a child-focused NGO that works to improve children’s well-being in its 48 area programmes across Cambodia. World Vision’s core programmes include work on Education & Life Skills, Health & Nutrition, Child Protection and Youth Empowerment.
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