Hong Kong push to get more adults and children learning together

Hong Kong has the lowest family literacy rate in the world

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 October, 2015, 10:00pm
UPDATED : Monday, 12 October, 2015, 10:00pm

Many will be surprised to learn that Hong Kong has the world's lowest rate of family literacy - a term used to describe parents (or extended family members and other adults) and children learning together.

Just 12 per cent of children in Hong Kong have that experience compared to an international average of 37 per cent, according to the 2011 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, a survey that tracks fourth-graders' reading habits at home and at school.

The report also found that although Hong Kong children ranked first in a reading test, they were lowest in interest, confidence and motivation.

To highlight the importance of family literacy, two charities, HandsOn Hong Kong and Bring Me A Book Hong Kong, are rallying schools, clubs and other organisations in the city to take part in an international attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the highest number of children read to by an adult in 24 hours.

The Read Across the Globe initiative is gathering community volunteers to read Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table, a book by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, to groups of children aged between five and 12.

Five local schools have signed up for the event being held on October 20 in Hong Kong, says Caroline Sprod, executive director of HandsOn Hong Kong.

A two-hour public charity session is also being held at Kowloon Bay trampoline park Bounce, when children join the record attempt during the first hour and spend the rest of the time playing on the trampolines. The HK$150 entrance fee will go to HandsOn Hong Kong and Bring Me A Book to support their volunteer mobilisation and family literacy work.

The Guinness record stands at 238,620 children worldwide, and Hong Kong organisers hope to read to at least 6,000 children around the city.

As a creative writing teacher, Sharon Le Roux knows the crucial role reading plays in learning. That's why she devotes about 10 hours each week to reading with her two children and encourages them to read on their own. Sadly, Hong Kong does not have a culture of parents reading to children, says Annie Ho of Bring Me A Book.

Ho says the situation has improved from a decade ago through the collaborative efforts of a network of NGOs.

The government is also supporting initiatives to help underprivileged and middle-class families understand and practise family literacy.

However, groups such as Bring Me A Book hope education officials can undertake more research to bolster family literacy and improve school curriculums to reduce the stress on families.

To find out about organising your own event, email: [email protected] To join the Read Across the Globe event, go to bounceinc.com.hk or call 2556 9555