The Sarawak State Library in Malaysia, hosts Reading Seeds as one of the reading promotion programmes included in the National Reading Decade 2021-2030 (the NRD programme), the government’s initiative to promote good reading habits. The programme aims to increase the rate of early childhood reading and to make Malaysia a reading nation within the next 10 years.
Reading Seeds, launched by Sarawak State Library in 2016, embeds reading habits in early childhood development by fostering family literacy among parents and their children from the womb to three years old.
A continuation of its Born to Read (2001-2011) and the Every Child Ready to Read (2012-2015) programmes, Reading Seeds is evidence of the Sarawak State Library’s long-standing support and promotion of family literacy initiatives.
As part of the programme, the Library introduced reading to new-born babies via kits which were distributed to parents via the Digital Community Centre, public and village libraries, government hospitals and community health clinics and village community halls.
The reading kits contain a parents’ reading guidebook, storybooks, flashcards, baby growth development charts and posters, developmental and educational toys for children, and access to the online book application which parents can use to access additional books.
After the distribution of the reading kits, parents and guardians participate in a workshop aimed at providing skills and knowledge for promoting early childhood reading, children’s educational development and family literacy.
A crucial part of the success of the programme are the nurse and librarian liaisons, who are active participants in the programme, and who serve as principal coordinators, facilitators and parent and child educators.
In 2019, following the success in Sarawak, the National Library of Malaysia expanded the Reading Seeds programme to seven other states in Malaysia. A total of 7,000 pregnant mothers have received the Reading Seeds kit so they can begin to read to their babies while in the womb.
In 2021, after three years of implementation, an impact study on the Reading Seeds programme involving 1,500 pregnant women was carried out. Based on preliminary findings from the National Library of Malaysia, it was noted that children involved in the programme read earlier than their siblings who had not been read to while in the early stages of infancy.
By the end of 2021, the Sarawak State Library distributed a total of 11,531 reading kits, with the Reading Seeds book application registering 3,623 downloads from February 2020 to November 2021. In addition, from 2020 to 2021 during the COVID pandemic, the library delivered 42 Reading Seeds workshops for parents/guardians via the Reading Seeds eLearning platform. The Sarawak State Library offers its online course for free to all parents, to promote early childhood literacy and digital inclusivity awareness and skills among Sarawakians.
To facilitate this programme, the State libraries engaged in partnerships with the State Health Department, the Ministry of Women, Early Childhood and Community Wellbeing Development, the Ministry of Public Health, Housing and Local Government Sarawak, and the Me Books Asia. The National Library of Malaysia is adopting the Reading Seeds programme nationally, with a launch scheduled for 2023.