April 23, Tonga – Family is central to life in Tonga. And celebrating family, and time spent together is the focus of a new World Bank-supported campaign encouraging Tongan parents and family members to dedicate 10 minutes each day to reading with their child.
The campaign, Laukonga Mo e Fanau (Read with your child in Tongan) aims to tackle an issue identified in a recent World Bank-led study as one of the key barriers to children’s development and success at school: that many children have not had enough nurturing, early childhood experiences —such as reading together with their loved ones—and as a result, arrive at school unprepared to take on the challenges of a new environment.
“Our study showed that a large number of children between three and five didn’t know how to hold a book,” said Siosi Tapueluelu, the World Bank’s Senior Operations Officer in Tonga. “Many couldn’t draw a recognizable figure or shape, and the majority lacked perseverance; the push to finish what they started. These skills are critical for early childhood development, and being ready for school on Day 1.”
The research further delved into the potential causes:
- 35% of children aged 3, 4 and 5 had not been read to in the three days before the study;
- Many had not participated in any activities at home that would develop their social skills and cognitive development;
- Around 70% of Tongan families have nothing to read at home to; among those who do, the materials may not be age appropriate or written in a language the child is most familiar with.
“Children who have a family member read with them are able to achieve better reading and comprehension in both Grades 1 and 2,” added Tapueluelu. “By reading regularly with your child, not only are you strengthening your relationship, but also helping to build the foundations that will help your child become a better reader.”
The benefits of this time spent reading together are exactly what the Laukonga Mo e Fanau campaign, which has been supported by the World Bank with funding from the Global Partnership for Education, aims to emphasize. The campaign, now underway across Tonga, aims to increase the number of children being read to regularly from 65% to 80% by the end of 2017.
Yet for Laukonga Mo e Fanau to be a success, it would need to tackle the issue in a distinctly Tongan way, argued Lena Moimoi, from Brand X, the Tongan marketing agency supporting the campaign.
“It was crucial for us that the campaign was aligned with the values most important to Tongans; the values of family, of community and faith, and how reading together will strengthen family bonds,” said Ms Moimoi.
“That’s why the campaign focuses on the idea of ‘shared reading’ – where parents ask questions of children as they read, and engage children about what is happening in the book. It gives suggestions to parents, grandparents and other family members on how to read with children; such as devoting regular time and the types of questions to ask your child before, during and after reading together,” she said.