BANGKOK, 9 September 2019 – UNICEF and Central Food Hall and Tops launched Every Child Can Read, a campaign to promote the importance of reading and to support the development of children’s literacy skills. The campaign is nationwide in scope but also has a specific focus on disadvantaged children and schools, responding to national surveys which found that a large number of young children in Thailand, especially in poor households and remote areas, do not have adequate children’s books at home and lack proper reading and literacy skills.
As part of the campaign, a series of initiatives under the title #ABookAWeek have been introduced in schools and communities, as well as in the homes, to promote reading and strengthen family and public participation in reading activities for children. In partnership with the Office of The Basic Education Commission, Ministry of Education, #ABookAWeek is being implemented in schools, through which each school develops interesting and fun reading activities to engage young readers and instill in children a love for reading. For example, many schools have organized ‘reading buddies’ where older students help younger students learn to read and engage in reading competitions.
A public social media campaign has also been launched to engage the wider public in promoting reading in their homes and communities. Members of the public can visit the website www.unicef.or.th/abookaweek to find useful tips and recommended children’s books. Members of the public are encouraged to participate in the social media reading challenge and share their love for reading through posting fun photos with their favourite books, using the hashtag #ABookAWeek.
In addition, reading corners will be set up in Early Childhood Development Centres in Bangkok and teachers will be trained to help develop early literacy skills for young children aged 3-5, creating a foundation for all future learning.
In partnership with local education authorities, mobile library vans filled with children’s books and trained animators are also visiting and supporting some 147 kindergartens and small primary schools in remote areas in Mae Hong Son, Tak and Leoi provinces, reaching an estimated 15,000 children, many of whom are from ethnic minorities.
Stephane Coum, Chief Executive Officer for Central Food Retail Group and President of Central Food Retail Co., Ltd, said: “The company is committed to improving the education for children in Thailand. The partnership between Central Food Retail and UNICEF Thailand has started almost 20 years ago, through which we have raised funds to help provide educational support for children in remote areas and promote access to education for all children. During the past 20 years, a 37-million-baht donation raised from Tops customers helped us provide five vans to support UNICEF’s mobile library initiative, bringing positive change to the lives of children in Thailand. This year, Central Food Hall and Tops joined together with UNICEF Thailand to launch the “Every Child Can Read” campaign which encourages everyone to be part of bringing equal reading opportunity for children in Thailand. Customers and members of the public can participate by making a donation via CenPay service at the checkout counter and donation box placed at Central Food Hall, Tops Market, Tops Superstore and Tops Daily.”
Thomas Davin, UNICEF Representative for Thailand, said reading has a tremendous impact on a child’s cognitive development and is the foundation for future learning. It ignites children’s imagination, leads them to greater creativity, improves their vocabulary and communication skills, helps develop analytical and critical thinking, and enhances their ability to focus. To become readers for life, children must love the very first stories they read. The more books a child reads, the more his or her reading improves.
“To put it simply: Reading makes children smarter and helps them develop to their full potential,” Davin said. “Working closely with education authorities, the Every Child Can Read Campaign aims to engage children and schools with reading activities which will develop a love for and confidence in reading. We aim to get age-appropriate and interesting books and reading materials to ECD Centres, schools and families, where they are currently in short supply and most in need. The campaign will also develop the skills of caregivers, teachers and parents to engage children in reading activities and improve literacy skills of the disadvantaged children. We want to place reading at the heart of education in Thailand.”
A reading survey conducted by National Statistical Office (NSO) in 2018 found Thai children younger than six years old spent an average of 42 minutes a day reading, a slight increase from 34 minutes in 2013. Yet, a national survey conducted by the National Statistics Office (NSO) in 2015-2016, with UNICEF support, found that 6 in 10 children under five years old have less than three children’s books at home, while only 14 per cent of children have ten or more children’s books at home. Children from more disadvantaged backgrounds had even fewer books compared with the national average.
At the launch event organized at Central World on Friday, Nichkhun Horvejkul, a popular singer and a Friend of UNICEF, joined children from remote provinces in a panel session to encourage parental involvement in fostering reading habits in young children.
“It is very important that parents read with their children since they are very young,” Nichkhun said. “Parents these days are very busy, but please spend at least 15 minutes a day reading with your children. This can create a lifelong learning foundation for children and great bonding within the family.
Every Child Can Read campaign aims to raise 17 million baht from the Thai public to help increase access to children’s books and promote literacy development during the next three years. Members of the public can make a donation to the campaign at the checkout counter via CenPay service and donation box placed at Central Food Hall, Tops Market, Tops Superstore and Tops Daily from September 1st, 2019 to August 31st, 2022.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.