To increase reading materials for children and encourage children to read and write at a young age, 30 children’s books written by children in the country were released yesterday in Thimphu.

Under the programme ‘Children Writing for Children,’ students between the ages of 12 to 16 from Zhemgang worked with Save the Children, Bhutan to publish a work written and illustrated by children.

Save the Children, Bhutan’s programme development coordinator, Bishal Rai, said that in 2014, Save the Children in collaboration with ministry of education launched a programme called Bhutan children’s initiative. “One of the activities was to produce and provide locally written and illustrated story books to very young children.”

He added that although the project ended in 2016, children continued to show interest for local stories. “What we wanted to do was to basically hear stories written from the perspective of children and illustrated by children.”

In July this year, Save the Children, Bhutan organised a six-day workshop including 62 students from 20 schools in Zhemgang. The stories were written by students from grade VI to XII.

Bishal Rai said that schools were asked to pick a child writer and an illustrator to attend the workshop.

He added that although writers and illustrators guided the student participants, the stories were a complete work of the students. “We had minimum input in this regard because these are the stories they had heard, seen and felt from the community.”

Students wrote stories on issues in the village such as drinking water shortage, lack of a tshogpa, excelling in examinations, folktales and personal incidences.

Hundred copies of each bookhas been printed today and will be sent to the respective schools in Zhemgang and to the schools in Thimphu.

Education secretary, Karma Yeshey, said that the initiative would help provide reading materials to readers across the country.

He said that taking such an initiative to other dzongkhags would benefit individuals at large. “The books are sent to the schools of Zhemgang and similarly, if the books can also go to other districts, then children can find reading materials.”

Bishal Rai said commercialisation would benefit children with economically challenged background. “We would like to make it available but commercialising it will be difficult as there are certain things that has to be considered when we do it.”

Save the Children, Bhutan will conduct a similar workshop for more students in Zhemgang to work on stories written by the students next month.

The pilot initiative was organised by Save the Children, Bhutan in collaboration with dzongkhag education office, Zhemgang.

Phurpa Lhamo