Phurpa Lhamo | Punakha

Unlike in the past, students in Dechentsemo HSS in Punakha witnessed a unique reading festival this year.

At one corner, students debated on issues such as the government’s decision to lift the ban on tobacco; at another, students relayed to memorise sentences to complete a passage; and in a different section, students shared their favourite quotes from the books they were reading.

The reading festival featured nine corners—buddy reading, musical station, book debate, read aloud, reading relay, popcorn English and Dzongkha reading, tea and snacks corner, and teachers’ books. Tshering Dema, a teacher, came up with the concept.

“This idea was shared by one of my Canadian friends when working at a school. She told me that the setting of reading has always been in classrooms and hostels. So, ‘why not develop different stations and let children enjoy?’” Tshering Dema said.

Following online courses and research, she developed the stations and was discussed with teachers and team leaders prior to the day.

A class IX student, Dawa Druksel said, “I enjoyed popcorn reading. When I came here I was amazed at the decorations and the stations.”

Reading is one of the school’s two priorities. The other is mindfulness meditation practice. Around 350 students of Dechetsemo HSS read over 5,000 books every year on average.

Principal Namgyal Tshering said, “Right now as beginners we’ve made children read, they will gradually pick the habit and then they will enjoy it.”

The school also keeps track of the total number of books a student has read and prizes are awarded.

Another student, Deepa Powdel said that the school ensured reading by providing more than an hour of compulsory reading time on weekends, 30 minutes reading time before bed on weekdays and reading in the morning on Tuesdays.

“Everywhere we go, we are to carry a book. Where I studied before, we didn’t have a reading culture. More girls in my hostel have begun to read.”

For the past three years, Dechentsemo HSS has also recorded 100 percent pass results on class X students.

Principal Namgyal Tshering said that in the past, the school was underperforming. “We have observed that students have improved a lot.”

Despite the efforts, lack of enough reading materials remains a challenge. The school library has around 6,000 books, of which the majority are related to science.

The school continues to conduct literary activities, inviting writers for motivational speaking and poetry recitals, among others.

Edited by Tshering Palden