Literature: Despite more children reading books in schools, there is still a deficit of reading resources for children at home and schools.

Save the Children, Bhutan, presented these findings from the Bhutan Children’s Book Initiative (BCBI) baseline study during a book forum held in the capital on June 1.

The baseline survey was conducted in 2014 in the primary schools of Thimphu, Zhemgang, Paro and Dagana.

BCBI was launched in 2014 and is a collaboration programme of the education ministry, Royal Education Council (REC) and Save the Children.

BCBI’s programme development coordinator, Bishal Rai, said the survey found children have limited access to books which is constrained by an absence of book borrowing practices.

“Students who don’t read at an early stage have poor performance in schools and their early grades seem to fall,” Bishal Rai said. “Socio economic status did not affect reading habits at school but it affected reading habits at home. Children belonging to households with lower socio economic status are less likely to read.”

The survey also found that existing reading materials did not stimulate children’s imagination, provide exciting plots and characters, and creative designs.

BCBI’s objective is to improve the supply and demand of high quality books in these schools. The goals of BCBI are in line with the National Reading programme.

“We also found that there was limited professional publishing houses and inadequate demand of high quality children’s books,” Bishal Rai said.

Through BCBI, we started training local publishers, authors and teachers. We started developing children’s books, conducting book forums, sensitised stakeholders and conducted assessments, he added.

Since BCBI was implemented, about 352 reading corners, classrooms and libraries were established in 64 primary schools in Thimphu and Zhemgang. Around 20 children’s book were developed, published and provided to the two pilot districts.

Curriculum developer and focal person of BCBI from REC, Amber Rai said quality criteria for book assessment for children was also developed under the project.

The criteria will assess books on whether story, theme, design, quality, and language, among others are appropriate for children.

Despite the achievements made under the BCBI project, there are sustainability challenges as BCBI ends this year. “We are currently exploring ways to sustain the project and looking into the possibility of government taking up the project,” Karma Dyenka from Save the Children said.

Thinley Zangmo