Thu, 30 Nov 2000

Libraries to stimulate reading habit

JAKARTA (JP): One way to encourage children to pick up the reading habit is to open more libraries across the country, former education minister Fuad Hassan said last Thursday.

"The interest in reading among children is already high. The problem is how to turn this interest into a hobby," Fuad told The Jakarta Post on the sidelines of a seminar on improving reading and writing proficiency among elementary school students.

Indonesians are not enthusiastic book readers because they feel that books are too expensive, he said.

The establishment of more libraries would give them greater access to reading materials and overcome this problem, he said.

"There should be a public library in every village. Every primary school should have its own library," he said.

Only 18 percent of some 110,000 primary schools to high schools have their own libraries, and only 22 percent of 64,000 villages in the country have public libraries, according to data from the Indonesian Library Club.

Fuad said school libraries and public libraries could solicit book donations from companies and individuals.

He cited the example of the Coca-Cola Foundation Indonesia, which has committed to spend Rp 5 billion (US$531,000) to help improve 20 libraries across the country over the next three years.

"I hope many more private companies will join the endeavor," Fuad said.

M. Hamka, a member of the curriculum development center at the Ministry of National Education, said during the seminar that children were not being encouraged in the schools to pick up the habit of reading and writing.

He proposed school examinations feature more essay questions to motivate children to develop their reading and writing skills.

Anggani Sudono of the Al Izhar Islamic School in Jakarta said schools could require students to read books periodically, and then retell the stories to the class.

The students could even turn the stories they read into plays, she said. (04)