One of the highly controversial topics is the significantly low percentage of Thai children’s reading habit when compared to their counterparts in many countries. One of the causes, and a serious problem, is the inability to read fluently, left alone to write.
“Ninety per cent of our students are ethnic Karen. The literacy problem may be found at all school levels. For example, when we asked them how they came to school, they would answer that they came with legs. They did not mean to tease or insult us, but they were influenced by the dialect they use in everyday life. This has become their problem in writing. Because the way they write reflects their pronunciations, the meaning of their writing may come out wrong. If they pronounce words incorrectly, they will misspell them accordingly. Mispronunciation leads to misspelling,” noted Ms Chanapha Sutsakhorn, a teacher of Rujirapat School, Suan Phueng district, Ratchaburi province.
To boost children’s linguistic skills and instill reading habit, World Vision Foundation of Thailand (WVFT) has held the Material Creation Workshop, under the Literacy Hand in Hand Project, which promotes 46 teachers who work in 6 provinces in WVFT’s project areas to use storybooks as instructional materials. In this workshop, the participants have been separated into 6 groups to visit 6 communities in Suan Phueng Project to gather stories from the community told by local wisdom elites. After that, the teachers have learnt how to transform the stories into storybooks, with additional illustrations and the use of Bloom, the storybook-creating application. Finally, hard copies of the storybooks have been completed.
All of the 6 literacy-boost storybooks, in either narratives or poems with illustrations, en-compass accounts filled with knowledge, entertainment, and imagination. They tell stories based on local wisdom in relations to traditional lifestyles and cultures. Although it roots in a community- or neighbourhood-specific folk tale, the essence found in the content of each story conveys a universal moral which can be applied everywhere. Each of the storybook is also well-designed to include the right words and story-telling method aiming for improving pronunciation skills for the primary school students.
Ang Mee Thong or Wrapped Rice Feast, a tradition practiced by Karen people in Suan Phueng district, Ratchaburi province is another plot selected by a group of teachers to develop into a storybook to make known the folk wisdom along with reading enhance-ment. “We’ve experienced their way of life, belief, tradition and local culture. These are data we’ve collected to create the story from our community visit, in which we’ve talked to the villagers. If we hadn’t interviewed them to collect the information to develop into a story, one day the traditional belief, culture, and way of life would have faded away. Some local children do not even have an understanding about these. But after we’ve created a story out of them with illustrations, the children have been more interested in learning about them,” Ms Chanapha elaborated.
Meanwhile, Ms Phennapha Wisanrawut, a teacher of Ban Nong Salut School, Makham district, Chanthaburi province talked about the origin of the Lazy Grandfather story: “During our field visit, we had opportunity to tell a story to the villagers through an interpreter because all of them are Karen. After the storytelling, the villagers have reflected their ideas, telling that it was fun and gave a good moral to teach children. After that, an elderly has shared a story of a lazy man. Our group has developed a story based on this plot. However, due to a bulk of information, a narrative composition would have been too lengthy and loaded with too complex language for students in grade 1 to 3. So, we’ve made it into poems, which also teach students about rhymes.”
Ms Narin Homphaen, a teacher of Ban Huai Malai, Sangkhlaburi district, Kanchanaburi province added: “Once finished creating the story and the illustrations, we’d load everything into Bloom. The application is very user-friendly and convenient. The school children, both Karen and Mon, would like to create more stories for teaching other subjects beyond Thai language.”
The next step is to transfer the knowledge. The mission of all these 46 teachers after this workshop is to expand the learning opportunity towards students and pass on various instructional techniques to other fellow teachers across their community and neighbouring provinces. It is not only about ability to read and write, but also the improvement of education quality of Thai children.