Taking reading online with virtual A Book A Week campaign
Online reading activities are helping students continue learning amid COVID-19 disruption
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It is almost two o'clock on Friday when teachers and students mark the third year of the A Book A Week campaign. This year's activities are very different from those in previous years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disrupted in-person activities. Although many schools are still closed, children's reading and safe learning must continue while at home. That’s why this year, for the first time, everyone participated in A Book A Week online.
The campaign is led by UNICEF Thailand, the Office of the Basic Education Commission (OBEC) and the Regional Education Office 7 and aims to foster a love for reading among students through schools and school libraries – because reading is the foundation for lifelong learning. Fourteen schools participated in the pilot project in 2019, and the number of schools rose to 61 in the following year. The first phase of the campaign concluded this year, in its third year of implementation, with the participation of 93 public and private schools, as well as students in non-formal education.
Although many students are still unable to attend school, books and an internet connection have kept us all connected. UNICEF Thailand staff, teachers from OBEC and 118 secondary school students from 30 schools gathered online to mark A Book A Week, connecting from Bangkok, Samut Prakarn, Samut Sakhon, Pathum Thani, Ayutthaya, Saraburi, Chiang Mai, Udon Thani, Satun, Songkhla, Pattani, Narathiwat and other provinces. The event was fully online for the first time and involved the greatest number of participating schools since the campaign launched. To engage all participants in the fun reading activities, there were 13 groups with no more than 10 participants each.
Book Club – What is your favourite book?
Each participant had one minute to reflect on their favourite book and explain why they enjoyed it, what they learned and why they would recommend it to their friends. Everyone was nervous and shy at first, but books helped build a bridge and open up discussion. Everyone took turns speaking and listening to their friends, and enjoyed themselves thoroughly.
"My school is currently closed, and I am in Matthayom 6 (Grade 12). The books I read are mostly for preparing for university admission. But the book that I would like to recommend today is about how to live your life and talks about things such as loving your family, caring for one another, mindfulness and not becoming too materialistic," said Nong Eye from Banmakkhaeng School, Udon Thani Province.
"I would like to express my appreciation to my school and homeroom teacher for allowing me to participate in this activity. I am also grateful to our facilitators, who are extremely friendly. I am grateful to all of them for giving me life advice and reading tips. Finally, I would like to show my appreciation to UNICEF for initiating such an amazing campaign," said Peck, a student at Rajavinit Nonthaburi School in Nonthaburi Province.
Thai Literature Avenger – Writing epics together
Students were asked to write one sentence about their favourite character on an online whiteboard. Each group was given 20 minutes. There was no right or wrong way to approach the task, and the students let their imaginations run wild. When time was up, the facilitators gathered all ideas and weaved them together into an epic tale in an e-book format. The Thai Literature Avenger e-book will be made available online soon.
This activity showed that every child's imagination is truly endless. Despite some technology hiccups, everyone helped each other out so that all 13 groups could come up with their unique story. Some groups also spent time talking about their lives, studies and dreams for the future, as if they were meeting face-to-face at school to help each other feel less stressed and lonely.
"I am impressed with how friendly and nice the facilitators were. It made us confident to express ourselves. It is incredible that we could combine very different tales into the Thai Literature Avenger," said Mymint from Na Mai Pittayakom Rajamangalapisek School in Udon Thani Province.
"I felt that I could freely share my thoughts about a book with the facilitators and students. For me, composing the Thai Literature Avenger really depends on your imagination. There is no right or wrong, which empowered us to express ourselves. Thank you so much for organizing such a great campaign," added Khematas from Wang Noi Panomyong Wittaya School in Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya Province.
"I am delighted to meet so many young readers,” said Ajarn Saowapa Sakda (Ajarn Noi), Director of Academic Resources Development and Promotion Unit, OBEC. “Whether the books are printed or electronic, we can gain so much knowledge from them. I would like to encourage everyone taking part in A Book A Week to continue reading. And to read between the lines and try to discern the writer's perspective, knowledge and experiences. Take some time to reflect on the pros and cons of a character’s choices, their behaviour and the consequences of their actions. This will broaden your horizons in your thinking and your problem-solving. When you are confronted with any problem in the future, these experiences can help you in resolving them."
With just a book a week, a reading culture for children’s lifelong learning can continue at schools and homes long after this campaign.
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