To Learn and To Play

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Yasintha Bere

Data Quality and Communication Officer

Save the Children in Indonesia

December 8, 2017

“To take care and educate your own child is simply a task of parents and almost everyone does it, yet to do the same for the other children is a matter of choice,” said Henderina in a conversation with sponsorship staff while meeting in her home. Yes, Henderina is one of those who chooses to educate not only her children – Yedija and Grace, ages 3 and 9 respectively – but also the other children in her community, at their sponsorship supported Reading Camp. She has been trained as a community volunteer by Save the Children in order to run the Reading Camp in her house for the local children. She believes that reading can be the window for the little villagers to see the world and to achieve their dreams.

As the Reading Camp had just been established, children ages 6 – 10 came with great enthusiasm. They came together to play games that strengthen their literacy skills and to learn to read the newly provided books. “It was such a joy to see children enjoy the games and learning. You can see that this is what they really need, to play and to learn through games with their peers.” Before sponsorship helped establish a Reading Camp in their community, children had very little access to books or other reading materials. Most have no books at home of their own, and there was no community library available.

After the Reading Camp was established, children like Maksimilianus, Fransiska and Ananda came with great enthusiasm.
After the Reading Camp was established, children like Maksimilianus, Fransiska and Ananda came with great enthusiasm.

With the creation of the Reading Camp, two challenges of improving the reading ability of local children were solved. Firstly, with the provision of books, which could also be lent to children so they could read them at home. Secondly, through the provision of a passionate facilitator like Henderina, who helps them to be motivated to learn and who encourages group learning styles that makes learning amongst friends fun for the children.

Henderina realizes that children this age cannot be forced to learn in a way adults may be able to. They need friends. They need to play. Therefore, in her Reading Camp, she tries to incorporate learning through play every day. Children can learn phonetics, letters and vocabulary through singing, playing games, solving puzzles and storytelling. Henderina dedicates her time for the children happily, having fun too with them in the Reading Camp.

Running the Reading Camp in a community where not all parents are aware of the significance of education and literacy is not without challenges. One of them is finding a way to get parents excited about sending their children to the Reading Camp. Some assume that sending their children would be a waste of time, and would rather have their help around the home, such as by collecting firewood, fetching water and caring for the family animals.

Henderina believes that the primary reason for this is the low awareness among parents on the great impact that being allowed to learn while playing with their friends can have on their children. Because of this, she has taken it as part of her role as community volunteer to visit every family with children in her community, to discuss the importance of educating their children and to encourage the parents to send their children to the Reading Camp.

Author Yasintha working with kids who benefit from sponsorship programs like Reading Camps.
Author Yasintha working with kids who benefit from sponsorship programs like Reading Camps.

Her efforts bear fruit as more and more children come to her Reading Camp as she meets with more and more parents. Sometimes, parents even stay to participate in the activities themselves. “With this positive progress, I strongly believe that the children in my community can read like those in the city and can reach whatever dreams they may have. This can start here, from this Reading Camp,” she proudly stated.

Mobilizing community members to help build our programs is an integral part of sponsorship. We provide training and tools that enable children, parents, teachers and local partners like Henderina to work together to achieve common goals. Consider sharing this story with a friend or family member, to show how you’ve helped bring the joy of reading to children in the Philippines, as one of our valued sponsors! Thank you!

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.

Reading: The Spark that Lights up Children’s Eyes


Cec Cecilia Ochoa, Senior Specialist for Basic Education & Literacy

Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Imagine what your life would be like if you weren’t able to read. What basic tasks would you be unable to do? What simple pleasures would you be unable to enjoy? 

Reading is a skill many of us take for granted. But for millions of children in the countries and communities where Save the Children works, reading remains a struggle.   

Parents typically have little time or training to help children learn the alphabet, or to make the link between the words they speak and the letters on a page. Books are few and far between, and are written in the school language, which is different from what children speak at home.   

Teachers without training often teach reading in the same way they were taught—mainly through drills and repetition, with limited time spent on teaching key skills or on ways to learn as you read text.    Save the Children’s Literacy Boost program promotes training teachers and creating a culture of reading outside of the classroom. Photo Credit: Brent Stirton for Save the Children

Save the Children’s Literacy Boost program promotes training teachers and
creating a culture of reading outside of the classroom. 

Photo Credit:  Brent
Stirton for Save the Children

In 2007, Save the Children set out to measure how well children in the early grades in Nepal, Malawi and Ethiopia could read. The results were startling.  We found an alarming number of children unable to read even a single word in a text or passage.  

We decided we needed to do something to change this. That’s how Save the Children developed Literacy Boost, our signature program for helping children learn to read. Here is how it works: 

Through Literacy Boost, children in the early grades are given opportunities to practice their reading skills both in-school and in their homes and communities. Book Banks of storybooks in the local language are provided so that children have materials to read other than their textbooks.  

Community volunteers also are mobilized to conduct weekly Reading Camps for children, where children can listen to stories, read books, and play games to improve their reading skills. Parents are coached on activities they can do with their children at home to improve language skills, even if they are not literate themselves. 

Teachers are trained in strategies for teaching the five skills needed for reading. And children’s reading skills are measured at the start and end of the school year to track their progress and identify where they still need more help.   

During a recent trip to Nepal, I was heartened by how the schools and communities had embraced the program.

“Before Literacy Boost started here in Kailali, there were no storybooks for children available in the community,” Anita, a Reading Camp facilitator told me. “Now, they have story books and fables in both Nepali and Tharu. This has brought the habit of reading to the community. Even parents are more interested about reading now.” 

The results are encouraging. In a year’s time, children who participated in Literacy Boost had increased their reading scores significantly compared to those from non-assisted schools.  

But it is the spark that lights up children’s eyes when they talk about books that especially inspires me.

“I like the stories, especially the one with the monkey,” said Kamal, age 7, one of Literacy Boost’s participants in Nepal. “When I borrow a book to take home, I can read it to my whole family. We can all enjoy the story together.”

Ishwor Khatry, Save the Children’s tireless education coordinator in Kailali, shares my sentiment. He said, “Through this program, we can really see that we are making a difference.”