A Mass Silent Reading Event

As part of their strategy to improve the school’s reading culture, Sekolah Menengah Awang Semaun held a mass silent reading event on the morning of 2 March 2017 to coincide with UK’s World Book Day celebration. This marks a soft launching of the school’s 2017 literacy programme.

After their usual Thursday morning prayers, the day saw the school community, which includes teachers and students as well as their non-teaching staff, gathering in the school hall each with their own reading material. Among them included your usual fiction and non-fiction books, comics, magazines and newspapers from various languages. Some reading materials were also provided on the day itself by the language departments and the librarians as well as books donated by various members of staff and the community. The silent reading event began at 8am and ended at 8.45am after which teachers and students went back to their regular lesson timetable.

In preparation for this event, the school’s English Language department together with the school library, Bahasa Melayu department, the Islamic Religious Knowledge department and the IQRA club promoted the mass gathering since February. Through the school’s library periods, students were encouraged to borrow books from the school’s library for their casual reading. Class teachers also played a part in promoting the borrowing of books from the school library. According to the school’s librarian, the library saw an increase in the numbers of books borrowed from the library leading up to the celebration.

“I think it’s fun because students and teachers cooperate together just to read books and it feels different when the hall is quiet for over half an hour long,” mentioned Ayuni Soima Sakinah bte Hj Mohd Yussof, one of SMAS students from 11 Blessed. Students were very positive about the event, most found it refreshing and even said it was “therapeutic”.

The event didn’t come without its own problems and one of the biggest hurdle the school had was students who didn’t come prepared with books. This was predicted by the main organisers which was why back ups were prepared. According to one of the non-language teachers, Cikgu Sarana said, “the programme is very good but we need to do it again because we need to create a reading culture for the students, especially for the students who didn’t bring their own book. If we keep repeating special events like this morning, we can create that reading culture where students will know to bring their own books.”

Witnessing the event was a guest of the school, Muhammad Umran, one of the international coaches for numeracy from the Ministry of Education’s Literacy & Numeracy Coaching Programme, who is currently stationed in Awang Semaun. The coach was very impressed at the way the students and the staff participated adding that “it’s a bit different than what you normally see in the UK where they normally do silent reading in classrooms for a half an hour session”. He also mentioned that “doing it this way shows that we are together which is good to see”. Arriving in the morning, he was surprised to see the school was quiet before he learned that the school was holding an event. Coming from a school area where people say there is social deprivation, Mr Umran was impressed to see students having their own books to read. When asked what message he would like to share with teachers and students of the school he said, “continue with this but try to incorporate it more into your classes and if they improve their literacy skills they will have a massive impact on the rest of their subjects. As soon as the children have a love for reading I think the results will shoot up.”

The Deputy Principal of Academic, Cikgu Hjh Norsinah binti Haji Metusin, commented that literacy is not only the responsibility of a language teacher. Other subject teachers, for example can enrich students’ vocabulary by highlighting difficult words in their lessons. They can also give them tasks to look up in the dictionary or via their smart phones. Teachers can even send students to the library to search for books related to their current topics or topics they will be studying in their lessons.

Cikgu Siti Marienah binti Haji Umar, the newly appointed principal of Sekolah Menengah Awang Semaun last November, mentioned that she has done silent reading in her previous school before as a special programme. When asked about how she felt about the mass silent reading, she predicted that we would have a rocky start but “when done systematically we would pull it off”. By the end of the day, she was happy to have everybody read including the teachers and non-teaching staff. After seeing the success of the event, the principal would like to see the school repeat the same event at least once per term suggesting that they could include instrumental music in the background to create a relaxing atmosphere. The school leader also suggested that they need to also reach outside the school community particularly to their homes to further improve the reading culture.

The annual World Book and Copyright Day is celebrated on 23 April and every year Sekolah Menengah Awang Semaun never failed to hold an event celebrating books to coincide with the day. This year, due to examinations and school commitments to PISA, the school will celebrate the yearly event on 8 April 2017. The new principal to SMAS is looking forward to this event saying that it is important that staff members create impactful activities for the students. 
Finally, when asked if she has any message she would like to share with teachers and students, the principal said that she believes in modelling and that teachers are role models to students, citing the morning event as an example where students saw teachers themselves reading books and therefore students will hopefully follow. She also hopes that with the facilities they have in the library, they can encourage students to read more books or exchange books with each other especially in improving their interests in reading. Cikgu Siti Marienah would also like to include ebooks in the computers in the library at the same time wishing that the ministry or departments in the ministry of education can help them in donating books for the students reading.

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About Mr_Syaf

Interested in leading and managing, passionate about the creative arts especially writing. Loves sharing knowledge and giving them out. Also, Head of the English Language Department, Head of Professional Development, Head of ICT Support group and the Media Club. A father of four and a husband to a lovely wife.

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