Self-made Indonesian entrepreneur Sukanto Tanoto credits his love of reading and education for much of his success. The CEO and founder of the $15 billion RGE Group of companies is working to bring the resources of the private sector to assist the Indonesian government in making education accessible to the entire population. This goal will be necessary for Indonesia to take its place among the leading nations of the world.
In one recent initiative supported by the nonprofit Tanoto Foundation and a corporate partner, teachers working in public school SDN 149/I Lebung Kato Ati received training on best practices in fostering literacy in children. A total of 20 teachers attended. The school is located in Desa Danau Embat in the Batang Hari district of the province of Jambi, one of the country’s most remote and underserved areas. When the river floods, it becomes even more isolated.
In the teacher training program, presenters demonstrated how to help children feel more engaged in books and reading through enhanced storytelling. The teachers learned how to create visual aids in the form of cut-out story characters to draw children into the action. They also learned management techniques applicable to small school libraries, methods for promoting a culture centered on reading and writing, and other ways of increasing children’s interest in reading.
A wide range of substantive research speaks to the vital role reading plays in developing children’s abilities to think independently, creatively, and constructively. Experts in early childhood education and reading advise parents to encourage reading at home, not only in school. Families can read together, ask questions about what they read, play games based on books, and make everyday encounters with language—on street signs, for example—part of an informal learning game. Lifelong readers become lifelong learners who are able to succeed in their careers and contribute to the overall economic and social progress of their nations.