Where learning means fun, and fun means learning
Bangkok is one of those cities where finding a department store is easier than finding a library. However, among a scarcity of public libraries, TK Park is a resourceful place where parents can have their kids spend the whole day.
The TK Park, a learning centre on top of CentralWorld, is a rather conventional library aimed especially at small kids, with space for them to not only enjoy reading but also to play. Besides all kinds of books, local and international, visitors can join a wide range of activities offered to those of different ages mostly free of charge, on weekdays and weekends.
As a parent, I think TK Park is one of the best initiatives the government has ever offered the public.
Anyone who visits the place regularly knows that TK Park has kept on improving its services and operations. I had never been there until I had kids myself years ago, and I thought of how awesome it would be if there were kid-friendly settings like this in every province: a space where kids can be in a fun learning environment at a very affordable cost.
The good news is that TK Park has expanded into the provinces. There are 19 locations, with two more opening this year, in Nakhon Ratchasima and Pattani, the latter of which will be the largest ever TK Park, covering 8,000m².
In celebrating its 12th anniversary this year, the Park comes with a Learning in the Digital Age attribute, aimed at encouraging children to love reading and learning using 21st-century skills, broadening from reading and playing into thinking, analysing and indulging creativity, based on activities provided by the TK Park.
TK Park also offers an online library, providing access to some 15,000 books and magazines from around the world.
There are more than 23,000 members of the online library, including 9,000 who read on the mobile app, according to Rames Promyen, acting director of TK Park.
While 2017 has been announced as the year of education reform, there are many red-tape issues the government has to work through. However, what can be done, instantly and cheaply, is provide an environment that encourages children to read and learn.
One impressive model is that of US based-Barbershop Books, which makes books available to kids when they get their hair cut. It is a community-based literacy program that creates child-friendly reading spaces for boys ages 4-8, a crucial period for learning how to read. According to the US Department of Education, 78% of America's fourth-grade students are below proficient in reading.
Alvin Irby, a former teacher and programme founder, targeted black-majority communities in the hope of raising the reading proficiency level among black youth. He inspired a movement to put children's books in barbershops across America, and now is working on building a network of barbershops across the country.
In Thailand, former Bangkok Metropolitan Administration Gov Sukhumbhand Paribatra announced in 2013 a plan to make Bangkok the world book capital, with a comic-book museum, central city library, etc, none of which has been accomplished.
Wouldn't it be better to make it simple and sensible? The shops and vendors who provide to children can help encourage reading by offering discounts and other incentives.
Sasiwimon Boonruang is a feature writer of the Life section of the Bangkok Post.
Writer for the Life section
Sasiwimon Boonruang is a writer for the Life section of the Bangkok Post.