Thursday, July 12, 2012

Day 1 of the TK Park Conference on Reading

 Day 1 of the TK Park Conference started with a keynote speech and welcome address of Dr. Tatsanai Wongpisetkul and Mr. Songsak Premsuk, Chair of the Office of Knowledge Management and Development in Thailand (OKMD). The OKMD is the governing department of TK Park. As explained by Dr. Wongpisetkul, TK Park is not a library, but a prototype knowledge management center for regional TK Parks in the regions of Thailand. As of to date, there are six TK Parks in the country and monitoring is only one aspect of TK Park's job. The staff of TK Park undergo constant research and development to improve the creation of knowledge and services it provides the public. For five years, it has been an uphill climb for them.

The medium of instruction in the conference are Thai and English. We were all given translators we attached on our ears to listen to the English translations for Thai speeches. This was the same for Thais who needed to hear our English speeches in their mother tongue. All in all, there were five speakers: myself, Zu Mohsen (Singapore), Shu Binti Haji (Malaysia), Sothik Hok (Cambodia) and Chan-soo Ahn (Korea). Except for Mr. Ahn, we four have delivered our paper and project presentations today.

I was the first to speak on the Role of School Libraries and Librarians in the Digital Age. I had the audience listen up the moment I showed a photo of my first library card and the story behind it. It has never failed me, that story. I then moved on to the flow of my presentation and in one hour, I was done. Thai Radio requested for an interview to which I graciously obliged.

The presentations that followed were library and reading projects in Singapore, Malaysia and Cambodia.

In Singapore, the National Library has a project called Born to Read, Read to Bond. This is a project that provides parents with Reading Kits and equip them with skills in reading to their children through talks and workshops. Malaysia has a similar project known as Every Baby a Book. What makes this different is the production of one specific cloth book and parents' guide in using the book for their baby. Since then, many parents in Penang, Malaysia availed of library cards. Indeed the love of reading begins at home and parents are the first to model the reading habit. A nation of readers begin in the family, the smallest unit of society. I am amazed and impressed at the daring and passionate ways in which the public librarians in Malaysia and Singapore spearhead the reading culture in the family through a library program.

In Cambodia, a non-government organization called SIPAR (accronym in Cambodian) sets up libraries in schools and in prisons. Sothik Hok presented the history and context of this project as well as ties with Room to Read, another NGO devoted to reading development in children. School library development is a strategy to help Cambodians reestablish their sense of self and well-being after the war. The motto in which SIPAR leaves by is this: "When people don't reach for books, we must make the books reach people". Their project will be awarded a grant by the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY). Sothik Hok is bound for London in August to receive the award during the IBBY Conference there.

Tomorrow will be Day 2 of the conference where three more papers are up for presentations. In the afternoon, I will join a panel to discuss these questions: What would be the characteristics of children for ASEAN future? How can we build them? Do they think children in ASEAN countries today are smarter (because they grow up in the digital age)? Do you have any concern that the reading is on the decline among children because of the Internet - Wikipedia, Google etc.?

Drop by the blog and read up on updates from the TK Park Conference on Reading 2012.

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