An HSBC volunteer works with children at a Kids Read community event in Vietnam

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.   Read more about Kids Read around East Asia at the bottom of the page.

Caring for the environment with Kids Read

Children are our future and teaching them to respect the environment is essential to their development and the future of our planet. This is particularly important in a country like Vietnam which is undergoing rapid industrialization and growth and is currently the sixth lowest ranking nation on the environmental sustainability index.  With this in mind the Kids Read team in Vietnam created an environment themed community event to develop children’s awareness of environmental issues through storytelling, arts and crafts activities, and songs.  

Around 500 children and 100 parents and teachers from four primary schools gathered at Can Thanh primary school, in a remote district of Ho Chi Minh City. They were joined by 58 HSBC volunteers who worked tirelessly to keep everyone happy, informed and entertained. Storytellers entertained the children with the Peace Book and the Earth Book by Todd Parr, followed by a wide choice of arts and cultural activities, all designed to raise the children’s environmental awareness.  The children had a great time, as Thuy An, a grade 5 student at Can Thanh primary school, told us “I like reading books in English and I really like the activities today."  

Their parents were kept busy at a workshop highlighting the importance of reading in developing children’s creativity, critical thinking skills, language skills and emotional intelligence.  They looked at how to make reading exciting for children and how to develop positive reading habits by initiating a reading routine. Parents were also provided with practical ways to select suitable books and how to read them with their children at home. The speaker also emphasised how primary children develop their emotional understanding, explore and discover new information, learn to concentrate, and better understand aspects of real life through books and stories.

The event provided a great opportunity for parents and children to learn together.  Teachers also found it very interesting and engaging.  The Principal of Can Thanh primary school, Mr Nguyen Thanh Hoang, told us that "both teachers and students really appreciate this event and are very excited to join in. This is a very good chance for students in the district to meet, learn and play together."

Students show off their Easter themed posters from one of the Kids Read competitions
Students show off their Easter themed posters from one of the Kids Read China competitions
Children hold up their hands with excited grins on their faces at a storytelling session
Kids in Indonesia enjoying a storytelling session
A group of kids hold signs saying 'Bravo Kids Read' while wearing animal costumes
Dressing up is all part of the fun at a Kids Read event in Taiwan
A boy reads a picture book carefully
A boy in Hanoi, Vietnam enjoys reading one of the picture books

Bringing the joy of reading to children in Vietnam for a third year

"Reading is a transferable skill that opens up a world of opportunities for children. The Kids Read project encourages Vietnamese primary children to read for pleasure both in the classroom and at home. It will also help develop the English language skills of the future generation through access to the very best of UK children’s books. This is a very exciting opportunity for both the British Council and HSBC to collaborate with Ho Chi Minh city on such a meaningful project to give young people access to English as a vital part of a child’s education in a globalised world.” Jon Glendinning, Director of the British Council Vietnam at the launch of Kids Read year three in April 2017. 

Kids Read started its third year in Vietnam on a high note with training sessions for the excited English teachers from the six participating schools across Ho Chi Minh city.  

The 35 teachers enjoyed a day of intensive training where they learned all about Kids Read and the benefits it will bring to them and their students.  This was followed by a storytelling workshop which covered several key areas including: 

  • appreciating the value of storytelling in class 
  • using strategies to hold children’s attention and convey meaning 
  • selecting appropriate activities for a story 
  • encouraging a love of stories and reading 

Now the workshops are complete there will be school visits, conducted by Sadie Maddocks, British Council teacher trainer. During the first visit the teachers watched a demonstration lesson and gave feedback on what they saw.  This was also an opportunity for them to discuss any issues they are having with their lessons as well as sharing successes with their colleagues. For the next visit, six of the teachers (one from each school) will be observed giving a storytelling lesson to their class. Individual feedback will be given and used for teacher development, as well as to help develop future Kids Read training sessions and storytelling workshops.

Kids Read was first launched in Vietnam in 2015 in Binh Duong province then moved to Hanoi in 2016.  It has been hugely successful with more than 3,500 students in Hanoi and 4,000 students in Binh Duong participating. A further 10,000 primary students have benefitted from the libraries set up by the project and from learning English with the 50 teachers trained by the project so far.

The results of the project have been highly positive with students developing a reading habit; teachers being able to incorporate reading in English in their class; teachers improving their lesson planning skills; and parents having access to book lists and methods to encourage their children to read and to love reading. 

As one teacher from Hanoi said; “This project has changed my teaching. It helps my lesson be more interesting and students can easily understand the lesson. When I teach vocabulary and sentences from the text book students feel bored, but when I tell stories with similar content students have a lot of questions and they want to hold the book and read to find out themselves.” (Mrs. Thao, Ngoc Lam Primary school, Hanoi)

Now teachers and students in Vietnam’s largest city will get to enjoy these benefits too.  Across Ho Chi Minh city 4,000 pupils will directly participate in the project activities including reading sessions, competitions and community events, as well as enjoying more engaging English lessons thanks to the training their teachers have undertaken.  They will also get to enjoy reading the 1,000+ books that are being given to the six schools, and which will be available for students to read for years to come.  These books will be used to help establish libraries in the participating schools, which in turn will help the schools achieve the targets of the National Foreign Language Project.

Over the course of the year the students, teachers and parents of Ho Chi Minh can look forward to a range of training sessions, competitions, engaging community events and, of course, lots and lots of storytelling.

Easter fun in China

The first year of Kids Read in China neared its end with the final, Easter themed, community event at Pingu No. 8 primary school.   After the success of the Christmas event, the Easter theme was chosen to coincide with world book day which fell locally on 23 April.  

Unlike events in other Kids Read countries, the community events in China have been adapted to ‘take the party to the kids’, who participate from their classrooms. This is for a number of reasons, but primarily as a result of the sheer number of kids (making it almost impossible to have all the kids and parents in one hall together), and also as a response to the preference of the HSBC volunteers, who are keen to experience more hands-on activities with a classroom full of kids. Before the event began the eight HSBC volunteers had a short training session and got to practice the classroom activities they would be using with the kids.  

Running a community event like this is a major undertaking with lots of people getting involved and a wide range of activities and competitions taking place, including: 

  • Speeches and performances by the school’s skipping and football teams.  
  • Special Easter performances by the kids, which were part of a competition. The winning class received Kids Read goodie bags which included branded school stationary, stickers & other treats. 
  • Storytelling games led by the HSBC volunteers, which had the kids jumping out of their seats with excitement. The games were designed to act as lead-in activities to the day’s story. 
  • The story was read by Jia Lili and Zhou Yuhong, the two Kids Read teachers at the school.  Each of the six participating schools has two designated Kids Read teachers but at this event all seven of the school’s English teachers took part thanks to some in-school cascade training. 
  • An Easter quiz facilitated by the HSBC volunteers. Although quite challenging the students did really well thanks to what they had learnt in their pre-event preparation (e.g. Easter posters, art competition). 
  • A small closing ceremony which featured some of the best entries from the Easter art competition. The second place winner received a Kindle fire and the best entry from Pingu was entered into the inter-school competition with the lucky winners to be chosen by HSBC. 

The day was a real success. Apart from the games, inter-cultural exchange and storytelling one of the highlights was giving the kids the chance to showcase their skills. They were challenged to present something related to Easter in English and the visitors, teachers and parents were treated to everything from arts and crafts, and dance routines, to an English magic show!  

Thanks to the success of Kids Read year one, year two will be even bigger, with twelve participating schools from the Pearl River Delta in the south of China.

The story so far in Indonesia

Kids Read, which has just completed a successful second year in Indonesia, aims to encourage reading both in the classroom and at home through teacher training and a variety of additional activities. Following the successful first year in Jakarta, in its second year Kids Read expanded to Bandung, the capital city of West Java province. Over the year, the programme has engaged 2,240 teachers, 21,642 students, and 177 parents, in 518 Primary Schools throughout the city.  

Adopting a similar model to the first year, Kids Read 2016 continued to introduce storytelling as an effective teaching method through workshops and teacher training. Thirty selected Partner Teachers were trained, in the early phase of the programme, on the essence of storytelling, how to choose suitable stories for students, and how to integrate school subjects into the stories. By doing this Kids Read hopes to develop children’s sense of curiosity then encourage them to learn further by reading.  Trained and equipped with cascading skills, Partner Teachers disseminated the knowledge to hundreds of other primary teachers at a series of public teacher training events. Through this, it is expected that the message of Kids Read will be spread to the wider teacher community and benefit even more students.   After the cascade training one Partner Teachers stated that   “Kids Read has developed teachers’ confidence and skills in using storytelling to teach at class”.

Community Events were another key element of Kids Read and emphasized the importance of synergy between parents and teachers in nurturing children’s love of literature.  At community workshops, parents were encouraged to foster the culture of storytelling at home, complementing the teacher’s use of stories at schools. 

Including sessions with local storytellers and creative workshops, the events also engaged children through activities where they made storytelling props, including puppet-show boxes and peg-doll characters, which they later used during the storytelling sessions.   Teachers’ and students’ skills and interests in literacy were also celebrated through story-writing & storytelling competitions.

Supported by the Ministry of Education of Indonesia and the Education Department of Bandung, Kids Read 2016 supported the nation’s goal of improving its literacy rate and addressed teachers’ needs for professional development, specifically in terms of creative and holistic teaching approaches. 

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.


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. 

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.'

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.

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.