“Do you like to read?” asked the teacher. “Yes!” shouted the students.
Recently, I had the great fortune of attending Tan Thanh Primary School’s summer Reading Day in the Can Tho Province of Vietnam's Mekong Delta. The school provides instruction for 1st through 5th grade students, and was selected to participate in Room to Read’s library program in 2008.
Our Room to Read Country Director in Vietnam, Mr. Tien Phong Le, explained that Reading Day was initiated last year as a way to engage students in reading during the summer break, providing a fun and creative way to reinforce the importance of reading on a regular basis. The event immediately proved to be very popular among the students.
Last year, Room to Read was actively involved in planning the event, but this summer the school wholeheartedly embraced Reading Day, and organized everything themselves.
About 125 students attended this year, and participated in three main activities: free reading, in which children independently engage with a wide variety of books; storytelling, in which teachers dynamically read aloud and pose questions about the stories; and drawing, in which children enjoy illustrating parts of their favorite books. The school yard was buzzing with activity as students eagerly ran from one activity to the next—hurrying so as not to miss anything.
As part of my participation in Reading Day, I sat and read quietly with some of the students for a while. Then, one girl very sweetly took it upon herself to read one of her favorite stories aloud to me in Vietnamese—perhaps she thought that would help me understand the Vietnamese book better!
Next, I offered to “read” a story to the students near me, which I did by making up a story from the pictures in a book (since all the books were in Vietnamese). Our Room to Read Local Language Publishing Program Officer, Ms. Quynh Le, kindly assisted me by translating my story for the children. I am happy to report that my “spur of the moment” story received more than a few giggles, even from my own five-year-old daughter, Julia, who was traveling with me and happily joined in the Reading Day festivities.
At the end of the day, each student was rewarded with a new notebook for their attendance. A few lucky students earned “Excellent Participation Awards” and received additional notebooks, bookmarks and pens. It was interesting to note that the ratio of girls to boys receiving awards was about 4:1, although I’m not sure if that indicates that the girls are better at reading or participating!
We left Tan Thanh Primary School with fond memories of our morning spent in celebration of reading. Julia proclaimed that she would happily attend a similar event at her own school back home, reminding me yet again of the universal love of reading shared by children everywhere…and their right to experience it.
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