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ITA holds Policy dialogue on Child Friendly Libraries

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Participants at a policy dialogue on child-friendly libraries urged to promote learning habits through modern libraries that encourage children to learn through books and revival of the culture of reading among children.

The policy dialogue titled “Child Friendly Libraries in Schools for promoting Reading and Literacy” organized by Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA), in collaboration with the Punjab School Education Department (SED), Children Library Complex (CLC) and Room to Read (RtR), under the Pakistan Literacy Project (PLP) on Tuesday.

Punjab SED Special Secretary Zaheer Hasan was the Chief Guest on the occasion. Speaking at the event, he said, “Libraries have been lost in this digital age but the modern libraries established under PLP will go a long way in inculcating the spirit of learning among children. We hope that the project is scaled up across other districts of the country.”

MPA and Punjab Chair Standing Committee on Education Aisha Nawaz Chaudhary, Punjab SED Additional Secretary Muhammad Farooq, SED Additional Secretary Budget and Planning Qaisar Rasheed, Punjab Finance Department official Kanwal Batool, Akhuwat Director Education Dr Huma Mirza, Sehr Qizilbash from Unicef, Alif Laila Book Bus Society Vice President Rabia Khan, CLC Program Director Aon Bukhari, storytellers Saadia Sarmad and Sarwat Mohiuddin, representatives from QAED, Punjab Curriculum and Textbook Board (PCTB), Special Education Department Punjab, Punjab Education Foundation (PEF); CEOs Lahore and Bahawalpur, and head teachers from 24 intervention schools were also in attendance.

The PLP pilot in 24 government schools is in an active implementation phase and the policy dialogue thus offered an opportunity to gather key stakeholders and policymakers to engage practically with the concept of Active Libraries and their efficacy in schools, share experiences and system-based ideas and explore scope and provide resources and budgets for supplementary books in schools for improving children’s learning.

The dialogue was especially held to acknowledge and celebrate SED school/district leaders who enabled the success of PLP libraries, including the CEOs of Lahore and Bahawalpur, school head teachers and PLP teams. There was also a public viewing of active libraries and activities in a Learning Marketplace which was the center of attention for teachers, students and guests. The Champions of Learning who made the PLP and active learning libraries a success were also acknowledged at the policy dialogue.

The event saw a panel discussion on child friendly libraries which was chaired by MPA Aisha and moderated by ITA CEO Baela Raza Jamil. MPA Aisha appreciated ITA’s efforts in providing modern libraries and a wonderful avenue to the children of Pakistan for improving their learning and creativity. Reaffirming her support for Libraries for Learning, she promised that she will request the SED for a pre-budgetary allocation for libraries.

Moderating the event, the ITA CEO said, “Parents have become active supporters of children’s learning (ASER 2021),” adding, “These libraries have converted reading from a passive activity to a joyful experience”.

RtR Senior Literacy Specialist David Strawbridge joined on Zoom and said, “Our goal is to make children enjoy books and provide them a relaxing environment for reading. We are delighted to see how children love these libraries and the reading activities conducted there. We need teachers, government officials and caretakers to come together to develop the love of books and love of reading among children.”

SED Additional Secretary Farooq said partnerships with national and international civil society organizations proved to be extremely beneficial in promoting learning among children such as the one in the form of PLP.

Similarly, Additional Secretary Rasheed said, “We have to begin from our schools. Learning losses at primary levels are alarming and books and libraries are the only way to improve learning outcomes.”

Dr. Mirza said, “We need to inculcate reading habits among children so it provokes their imagination and improve their critical thinking. PLP is a great intervention and we are with all those who promote reading.”

Meanwhile, Ms. Qizilbash said that 60-70% children of 10 years in Pakistan were in learning poverty. “Literacy cannot be improved unless children are able to read,” she added. Ms. Khan from ALBBS added that libraries had to be supported with an enabling environment. She suggested making a 10-year decade of reading like Malaysia and UAE.

The PLP was launched in Punjab in collaboration with SED and its affiliate bodies supported by RtR and implemented by ITA. PLP has established 24 furnished libraries in government primary schools and in primary sections of elementary/secondary schools. There are 12 libraries each in Lahore and Bahawalpur districts. Each library contains 2,400 books with 28 Room to Read books adapted/translated in Urdu under PLP have been distributed to over 500,000 students across 2,000 schools across Pakistan.

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