The National Reading Year was launched as a tribute to the 60th Birth Anniversary of the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, and shall continue to be one of the main programs for years to come.
After numerous initiatives on the National Reading Year, Director of Royal Education Council (REC), Kezang Choden Dorji, said, “All initiatives taken by REC have been successfully implemented”, adding that the reading year is meant to be celebrated and implemented till all Bhutanese have become avid readers.
Not only have the initiatives been successful, but future plans have been laid to create continuous awareness on importance of reading through media and talk shows and program on TV and via local cable operators in different dzongkhags.
The National Reading program will be continued as a regular activity in schools every year. The schools shall ensure that the reading program be an important activity during the academic sessions.
“REC shall continue to organize national book fair and assist schools with guidelines and support to procure library books, and also the Ministry of Education (MoE) being the implementing partner shall
support REC in the promoting reading programs in schools,” she said.
She also said that the DEOs and schools should work out a separate budget allocation to be used for organizing activities, purchase of book prizes and certificates for reading programs.
During the Annual Education Conference last year, the National Reading Year brochures containing the suggestive strategies were distributed to all the teachers, students and parents, and to public through various social media.
She said, “All the schools in Bhutan were directed to initiate reading program and were instructed to design SMART plan that is creative, innovative, appropriate, cost effective and relevant to the schools’ situation.”
She also said that all the schools were asked to send their SMART plan reports and reading activities to the department for compilation and record keeping.
According to the half-yearly report received from every school, the report shows around 900,000 books have been read so far by the teachers and students, and reading activities are being implemented with vigor and enthusiasm.
To encourage reading, Kesang Choden Dorji said that REC initiated a national reading competition amongst
schools, students and teachers. And for those who have read a maximum numbers of books, rolling trophies and prizes will be awarded.
“Every school is instructed to encourage each child to read at least one book a month, and compile records of the books the schools have read. And also schools were encouraged to purchase more reading materials and books that are age appropriated for children,” she said.
Talking on some of the successful initiatives, she said that the English Unit of REC organized workshops to train 140 primary English teachers in four regions on teacher read-aloud strategy. The trained teachers have further conducted School Based In-Service Programs (SBIPs) in their respective schools and spread the training to 2500 more teachers.
In addition, the BCBI (Save the Children) in collaboration with the REC (erstwhile DCRD) trained 350 primary teachers of Thimphu and Zhemgang on read-aloud strategy and book management.
“351 bookshelves and 5000 books were distributed to all the primary schools in Thimphu and Zhemgang”, she added. She also said that the National Book Fair in Mongar and Punakha ended successfully.
Principal of Loselling Lower Seconday School, Sonam Phuntsho,
said that the reading year has really helped the students to get in touch with books. He pointed out that the school has initiated its own ways of encouraging students to read more books. He said three days of assembly time in a week is now kept for reading and every five minutes before starting each period is devoted towards reading.
A 10th grade student from Lungtenzampa MSS, Sonam Wangmo, said, “I enjoy reading novels and sometimes, I land up reading till midnight”. She added that she started to read three years ago. “This year, I was able to read more than ever due to lots of encouragement from teachers,” she added.
On the other hand, Sonam is worried that her interest in reading novels is going to affect her grades as she spends more time in reading novels than doing her homework and reading the text books.
The erstwhile Department of Curriculum Research & Development (DCRD), Ministry of Education was instructed to develop the Reading Program that would apply not only to schools and students, but to all the Bhutanese citizens.
Such initiatives, made for the first time in Bhutan, are expected to ignite and strengthen the habit of reading in all.