Since 2010, the Tanoto Foundation has worked to improve overall educational attainment in some of Indonesia’s most under-resourced provinces: North Sumatra, Jambi, and Riau, all on the island of Sumatra. Through one program in particular, known as Pelita Pustaka, the foundation has supported teacher efforts to establish and maintain attractive and inviting school libraries and get students excited about reading. So far, close to 200 rural schools in these three provinces have implemented Pelita Pustaka.
The Tanoto Foundation, under the guidance of Indonesian-born entrepreneur and philanthropist Sukanto Tanoto and his family, has put significant amounts of time and resources into developing the country’s capacity to deliver high-quality education at all levels. Mr. Tanoto firmly believes that education will enable a quickly industrializing nation like Indonesia to help its citizens lift themselves from poverty and compete in the fast-paced 21st century economy. Through Pelita Pustaka, the foundation trains teachers to use effective, enjoyable reading-related classroom games that encourage children’s independent thinking and creativity. In keeping with broadly accepted practices among education specialists throughout the world, Pelita Pustaka focuses on making sure that, first of all, children see reading as fun.
In generations past, some teachers and school librarians placed the greatest emphasis on using tests and quizzes to measure students’ knowledge of assigned material they had read. While this methodology has its place in ensuring that children are reading with comprehension at grade level, it does little to promote the kind of enjoyment that leads students to become lifelong readers and independent learners.
Today’s best practices focus on getting children excited about reading, and encouraging them to follow their personal interests in choosing books. A school library that promotes exploration and questioning, and that responds to each child’s individual interests, is the kind that will most likely lead to increased reading, increased love of books, and increased test scores. A school or classroom library filled with materials that appeal to children, along with guidance from adults who model a love of reading, are the best ways to show even the most reluctant readers the wonders they can find in the pages of books.