International Children’s Book Day is celebrated every year on April 2, on the birthday of the father of modern fairy tales, Hans Christian Andersen. This International Children’s Book Day is the right moment for us to introduce books to children and foster their love of reading.
Reading is a basic aspect in the learning process and one’s intellectual growth. Through good reading skills, we can increase knowledge, learn to analyze a problem, and learn to make the right decisions. Unfortunately, interest in reading or reading culture in Indonesian society is still relatively low. Based on a survey conducted by the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) in 2019, Indonesia is ranked 62nd out of 70 countries, or is in the bottom 10 countries with low literacy levels. Meanwhile, UNESCO stated that the reading interest of the Indonesian people was only 0.001 percent. This means that out of 1,000 Indonesians, only 1 person likes to read. Different research conducted by Central Connecticut State University in March 2016 entitled World’s Most Literate Nations Ranked, had more or less the same results. Indonesia is stated to be ranked 60th out of 61 countries related to interest in reading.
As the Martabe Gold Mine operator, which operates in Batangtoru, South Tapanuli Regency, PT Agincourt Resources (PTAR) is also trying to foster a culture of reading which is one of its commitment to make a real contribution to development, especially in the education sector, in North Sumatra, especially South Tapanuli Regency and several other directly affected areas (DAV).
One of the things that PTAR does is work with the village government and the local community to establish and manage a Children’s Reading Center (TBA). The first TBA established by PTAR was TBA Napa in February 2009. To date, there have been 15 TBAs established by PTAR with a total collection of more than 16,000 books. These 15 TBAs are located in 15 villages in PTAR operational area and are managed by volunteers from each of these villages, such as the villages of Napa, Wek I, Wek III, Aek Pining, Batuhula, Sipenggeng, Aek Sirara, Sumuran, and Hapesong Baru.
The establishment of TBA about the fact that the community in the area around the mine is lacking access to quality books. It is hoped that with the availability of thousands of new books with various themes, children will be encouraged to read more actively and get used to reading various types of books from an early age so that a reading culture grows within them.
In addition to increasing children’s interest in reading, PTAR-assisted TBA also seeks to promote children’s talents and skills. Through its programs, PTAR-assisted TBA equips children with character and talent development, such as dancing, painting and storytelling, to raise their self-confidence. In fact, since 2013, PTAR has regularly held TBA Art Performances in the form of traditional dance performances as well as reading, colouring, drawing, storytelling, singing and quiz competitions.
This Art Performance event is also used by PTAR as the peak event for the TBAs competitions. On this occasion, PTAR will announce the winner of the best TBA and the best TBA manager. Selection of winners is based on the activeness of TBA operations, TBA open schedule, number of visitors, attendance of TBA managers, types of regular and extra activities, cleanliness and the aesthetic outside and inside the building, book layout and TBA administration, as well as attention and support from village officials local. Apart from appreciating the community’s efforts in managing the established TBAs, this competition is also intended to encourage them to come up with new initiatives that can make their TBAs even better.
In 2015, PTAR even sent the winners of the best TBA managers, namely Go To Reading TBA in Aek Pining Batangtoru Putri Pratiwi and Dian Lestari, to the 2015 Children’s Reading Park Olympics (OTBA) organized by the Ministry of National Education to join the competition at the national level. PTAR also built the Sopo Daganak open-air theatre (Amphitheater) with a capacity of 500 people on Jalan 2 Desa Napa, Batangtoru District, on an area of approximately 4,430 square meters. This amphitheatre is used as a centre for TBA activities as well as a unifying forum for TBA in all Batangtoru sub-districts and Muara Batangtoru sub-districts.