“Mom, please, first listen to me read the book once, okay?”
My student’s mother nodded her head as I sat down next to her on the porch in front of her house. She was weaving a basket, and Grandpa sat near us in a blue plastic chair mending a fishing net. I opened the English practice reader and began to read aloud. “Will it come? His cat will come. Her cat will not come. Her dog will come. His dog will not come.”
Mom listened intently until I finished reading the book.
“Okay, Mom. Are you ready to practice?”
“Yes, I am.”
Once again, I read through the book, pausing after each sentence to let Mom practice reading the sentence back to me. A water buffalo munched grass in the field just across the road as we finished reading the book together.
“Great job!” I said. “Are you ready to teach your daughter now?”
Mom nodded her head again and motioned for her daughter to come and sit next to her. As Mom began to read the book to her daughter, Grandpa set aside his fishing net and watched with interest as his daughter taught his granddaughter how to read English.
“Mom, you did a great job teaching your daughter. Could you do more thing?” I asked.
“Yes, of course. What?”
“Could you please read this children’s story in Thai to your daughter and to me? I would really enjoy hearing you read to us.”
Mom smiled broadly and took the book I offered to her. She sat between her daughter and me and began to read to us a story about a boy who was trying to help his camel pass through a small gate in the city wall. The camel was not able to pass through the gate until after the boy took off the saddle and all the bags the camel was carrying. On the final page of the story, it reads, “Jesus says, ‘It is very hard for a rich man to get into heaven. It’s easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle.’”
“Thank you, Mom, for reading the book to us. Did you like that story?”
“Yes, it was a good story.”
Turning to Mom’s daughter, I asked, “Did you like listening to your mom read the book?”
Her face lit up as she nodded enthusiastically.
As parents and teachers, Tonya and I know how important it is for a child’s development to be read to regularly. However, research shows that in our region of Thailand, most children do not have caregivers reading to them on a regular basis, nor do they have access to age-appropriate books in their homes. Many parents want to help their kids grow, but they simply don’t know where to start. We have an opportunity to teach parents and caregivers how to invest in their children’s development through reading. And, by taking the time to read to their children, they can show their children how much they value them.
Please pray for our team here in Thailand that we will be able to inspire caregivers in the community and model for them how to engage more actively with their children’s development. Please also pray that these caregivers in turn will be inspirations and positive role models for others.