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Digital library set to help improve children’s reading and tech skills

Hundreds of primary school children in Timor-Leste now have access to a free digital library for the first time to help them improve their reading skills.

ChildFund Timor-Leste and our partner Library for All have introduced the digital library, stored on tablets, to more than 600 students in some of the country’s most disadvantaged communities in Manatuto municipality. This project is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).

Students from Grade 1 to Grade 3 can choose from 130 titles, including stories written by local authors in Tetun and developed by Timor-Leste’s Ministry of Education.

School co-ordinator Engracia from Beboro Primary says the digital library provides students with a diverse range of age-appropriate reading materials that they would otherwise not be able to access.

“At our school the children have read the same books many times,” she says. “They have been needing new ones, and there have not been enough books for every child to read at the same time. They usually have to take turns.”

The new technology has been welcomed by students and teachers, who were trained on how to use the and manage the library at the start of July.

Grade 3 student Paula says: “I am happy because we can read more stories together.”

Nine-year-old Baltazar, who is also in Grade 3, has enjoyed choosing from a variety of books to read. “I like the stories and pictures; they’re good,” he says.

Grade 3 student Paula is one of more than 600 students in Timor-Leste who can now access 130 new stories in the digital library.

Engracia says the digital library is helping students develop their technology skills. “We are in modern era and children want to have access to, and know how to use, digital devices,” she says.

Policarpio, the school co-ordinator at Lifau Primary, says he hopes the library will be available for older students in the future.

“This digital library can help enhance children’s reading skills, which is essential,” he says. “I would like students in Grade 4 to Grade 6 to be able to access it as well. We have been planning to make more books available for these students but have not been able to do it.”

The digital library has been introduced in four schools and two community centres in Manatuto municipality. Families with android phones will also be able to download the library app to help their children with reading at home.

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