Kids Read across East Asia

Kids Read is an award-winning reading programme for primary school children to encourage reading for pleasure inside and outside the classroom. The project has been developed by the British Council and is supported by grants from HSBC, and to-date has run in 20 countries across the Middle East and Asia.  Kids Read has been designed to provide an engaging reading programme which opens up a world of opportunities to children, exposing them to other cultures, attitudes and issues.  

Kids Read launches in China

In a small rural school nestled in the hills of Beijing’s outer northern suburb of Huairou, the British Council and HSBC launched the Kids Read programme for China.

The morning of the launch at Jiaduhue primary school was action packed, with Mr. Huifeng Zhang (Head of CSR for HSBC China), Sam Ayton (Director English, British Council China), representatives from the Beijing Education Authorities, the headmasters from all six participating schools and other special invited guests arriving before 9AM. 

They were treated to a traditional welcome dance performed by the students followed by a tour of the school. The tour included observing one of the Huairou teachers delivering a storytelling lesson and a visit to the new ‘Kids Read Reading Corner’ which has been established as a place where the students can both enjoy reading during class time and check out books to read at home using their new library membership books. 

After the tour, the opening speeches were followed by the 12 Kids Read teachers telling the story of Kids Read China to the invited guests and students using the traditional “Once upon a time…” format. To illustrate their story, the teachers used photos of their own Kids Read journey, for example their training and the books arriving at their schools.  They were also assisted by the HSBC volunteers and a small troupe of actors selected to represent each grade in Jiaduhue School. After the story there was the presentation of the books, a gift exchange between the students and VIPs and the distribution of the Kids Read goodie bags which contained branded stationary, a folder of LE Kids Print items and most importantly the library membership book. 

The event was a huge success and it made it into the evening edition of China Daily which is one of the country’s premier English newspapers: Reading motivation project ‘Kids Read’ kicks off in Beijing as well as several other Chinese language publications, with a combined reach of over 33 million readers.

The Programme in China

In China the key focus of Kids Read is to foster a culture of reading amongst primary students from underprivileged communities and schools. The 6 Chinese schools participating in this year’s programme are a mix of rural and urban schools, some of which contain a high percentage of migrant or minority group students. 

Once the participating schools were selected 12 representative teachers received methodology training at the British Council offices on how to use and promote storytelling in their classrooms. These teachers will now cascade this training – with British Council support – to their respective English departments giving the programme a reach of roughly 40 teachers and more than 1400 students. 

In addition to this training and the subsequent improvements in reading lessons each school will also receive a mini-library of around 200 books. The books have been chosen based on quality of content, visuals and their ability to engage kids. All of the books are also popular amongst children in the UK. 

To further help foster a culture of reading, the schools have been provided with library membership books for the students who will be encouraged to use these in order to borrow books that they like. Each classroom will also receive a set of ‘performance posters’ where the students will receive stickers for progress and branded stationary which will be used as prizes. In addition to these reading incentives there will be several competitions held over the course of the programme. The competitions are designed to be extensions to reading and aim to help the students with additional skills including speaking, confidence and creativity.

To help get the Kids Read message to the wider community there will also be a series of community events held in selected schools. These events will be supported by the HSBC volunteers and will be open to the student’s parents as well as the wider community. 

Bringing the joy of storytelling to disadvantaged children

70 disadvantaged children in Vietnam listened spellbound to storytellers at the second Kids Read community event in Hanoi, the capital city.

The British Council Vietnam in collaboration with HSBC Vietnam co-organised this community event at the Centre for Medical Treatment, Education and Social Affairs No. 2 in Ba Vi, Hanoi. The event was attended by representatives of the Centre, the Worldwide Orphans Foundation and 22 HSBC volunteers.

The event involved a storytelling session followed by some fun activities to build on what the children learnt from the stories.  The volunteers were thoroughly briefed and trained so the sessions went excellently. Dear Greenpeace by Simon James and The Whole World by Christopher Corr and Fred Penner were read in both English and Vietnamese. The children enjoyed the stories and were blown away by the fun activities. “I loved the stories because they are funny and interesting” and “I am very happy and wish your team would come to us more often to tell us many more stories and to create more games for us” were among  comments that were heard. 

Thuy Ngo, Country Director of Wordwide Orphans Foundation expressed her thanks to HSBC Vietnam and the British Council for “a lively and exciting morning”. She commented that “the children enjoyed listening to English stories and singing English songs, and they also made fantastic art work.

Year two begins in Vietnam

In its second year in Vietnam, Kids Read, the HSBC-British Council joint project, aims to reach 4,000 pupils, giving away over 1,200 books to six primary schools in Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam.

Last year, Kids Read ran in Binh Duong, a southern province with 3,985 primary students benefitting from the project, the widest reach of any of the eight participating countries in East Asia. 84 per cent of attending children in the province found that 'reading English story books is good' and 'listening to English stories is fun'.

Apart from the impressively high participation figures, the Kids Read project also trained 25 teachers and key ideas  from the project have been shared widely with English teachers from other primary schools in the province through the closing event.

At the closing event for year one a teacher stated that thanks to the training  ‘we know how to choose and  incorporate stories into our lesson effectively.’  They also commented on the progress of the children over the year: ‘When we first started doing this we had to face with many difficulties because the students were not really interested in reading English books.’ However, thanks to the new teaching ideas ‘the students gradually enjoyed reading very much.

Truc Tam, an English Language specialist from Binh Duong Department of Education and Training underlined the impact of the project stating that it left the long-term benefit of encouraging students to read for pleasure and gave them a richer understanding of the world.

The second year of the project was launched in Hanoi and received a warm welcome from the Hanoi Department of Education and the Ministry of Education and Training with ministerial and departmental representatives praising the initiative as an important contribution to the city’s overall strategy to encourage young children to read.  Francis So, Director and Head of Hanoi Office, HSBC Bank said: 'For Kids Read, we greatly appreciate the wholehearted support and commitment shown by the British Council, especially the project team in Vietnam who have created a dynamic educational project that is ideally suited for Vietnamese children'. 

'Seeing the students getting along and totally putting themselves into the session, I can assure you that this will not feel like homework! By participating in the Kids Read programme, children in six primary schools in Hanoi city will soon develop a real passion for reading.'

Multimedia Kids Read in Taiwan

Kids Read in Taiwan recently celebrated the start of its second year, the first country in East Asia to do so.

In the first year of the programme 54 HSBC employees volunteered, helping out at events, telling stories to children.  More than 3,000 students enjoyed the program, reading the books that were sent to their schools.  Throughout the year the British Council also organized teachers training workshops, HSBC staff volunteering workshops, student English competitions and community events.

Schools have responded very positively to the programme with Principal Chang Mei-feng from Xiufeng Elementary School stating that “We are very grateful to have the chance to join the program, which not only helps our students to access valuable resources, but also trains our teachers and benefits our community.

In many other Kids Read countries the programme focusses more on paper books, however in Taiwan a lot of multimedia content being used, including games, TV programs and songs.  This helps make the reading experience more interactive and helps to get the kids up and moving, especially through the use of games.  It also encourages the students to talk more which is key to improving their English. “Reading was really just a hook to attract children’s attention; our ultimate goal is to get them talking” said Steven Murray, English teaching specialist.   Parents are also involved in the programme and are invited to experience what’s happening in their children’s’ classroom.

At the year two press conference, Sam Ang, head of banking, HSBC Bank Taiwan, talked about the company’s commitment to helping young people to access education, and to build their international and cultural understanding. Sam also shared her childhood experiences of reading emphasising the fact that reading is both “fun” and “helpful.”

Jamie Gibbings, director of English, British Council Taiwan talked about importance of the programme, saying that “reading is inspirational, which opens up indefinite possibilities for the children, and also empowers them in all aspects of life.

Let's read in Indonesia

At a recent Kids Read event in Depok, Indonesia, hundreds of kids and their mothers gathered in the playground of an elementary school in the outskirt of Jakarta. The event started with Ariyo Zidni, a local story teller who told stories about the importance of saving money from an early age.

After enjoying story-time, the kids took part in a creative workshop led by WEWO (Weekend Workshop), who invited the students to make their own piggy-banks from clay. The workshop followed the themes introduced by the stories, encouraging the children to start saving money in their own handmade piggy-banks.

Meanwhile, Ibu Itje, a well-known Indonesian educator led a workshop for parents which focussed on the role they could take in developing their children’s reading habits. Parents were involved in the programme so they would be able to motivate and help their children to read at home as well as at school.

Good reading habits established early, improve later performance across a range of life skills, as well as developing language and critical thinking skills in children. However, teachers and parents often struggle to find ways to motivate children to read and the problem increases when dealing with a foreign language like English.

Kids Read has been running in Indonesia for one year, and involves six schools, selected in collaboration with HSBC and the Ministry of Education. So far, the British Council Indonesia Foundation had trained around 2,000 teachers in Jakarta and the Greater Jakarta area and reached more than 4,000 students and the programme is expected to expand covering more areas and developing good reading habits in many more children across Indonesia.