Building a Program of Child- friendly Libraries in Local Schools in Bali

Yayasan Literasi Anak Indonesia (YLAI) is a non profit organisation based in Denpasar, Bali, with a mission to improve the literacy levels of young children in Indonesia through innovative school reading programs, child-friendly school libraries, and engaging, culturally relevant picture books to build a habit and love of reading.

Recent surveys ,taken by the Ministry of Education and partners in many provinces across the archipelago since the pandemic, reveal many children didn’t get adequate teaching in the foundational skills of literacy entering the early grades. In more remote areas of Bali the learning loss is especially severe. More than 50% of students have not reached the minimum competency limit for reading literacy in such regencies as Karangasem and Klungkung where the most densely populated districts have the highest poverty rates in Bali, 6.8% and 5.7% respectively (Kemendikbudristek, 2022).

The distance learning during pandemic was fruitless for many public primary students in challenging locations. One would expect that during pandemic the teaching and learning process would continue via meeting apps such as Zoom, Google Meet or any other available means. However, as one average household typically could only afford one cellphone, having a meaningful and scheduled daily distance learning interaction during the pandemic was close to impossible. The devices were usually used by the parents for work, but  most public primary schools relied on parents’ assistance at home. Teachers hoped for parents to be their helping hands in explaining the notes given by them, and to assist their children in finishing the assignments. However it was hit and miss for many as significant numbers did not even return a single contact made by the teachers during pandemic in these difficult times of lock down and remote learning

YLAI has responded to this situation by continuing to build child-friendly school libraries and support reading programs in schools. Through the partnership with Room to Read (2017-2023) we have developed 138 child-friendly school libraries in 4 districts of Bali, namely Denpasar, Karangasem, Badung, and Gianyar.  Last August, as part of its response to the situation, YLAI opened 60 libraries in sub districts of Denpasar, including Sanur. Hear what the teachers, Ibu Ari and Ibu Dayu reported from one of these schools, based close to Denpasar’s biggest landfill at the beginning of January, 2022, when schools reopened after the pandemic.

We were extremely concerned. Many children’s reading ability had suffered as a result of being unsupervised during the pandemic. One such child was Wayan. He was among those that went undetected during the pandemic. Despite being in grade 5, Wayan (student, 11 years old) struggled to identify letters in the beginning of the school year. He didn’t respond when his teacher spoke to him.

Fast forward to the middle of 2022, the principal of the school, where Wayan is enrolled, met school consultants from YLAI, Yayasan Literasi Anak Indonesia. Realizing that the organization could help his school, Bapak Kadek agreed to join YLAI’s child-friendly library program. By joining the program, the principal and all staff of his school had to dedicate their resources to make the program work. They paid for their own room renovation so their school could match the library room readiness standard set by YLAI. They took overtime almost every day for one whole month to prepare for the book check out system in the midst of 60+ hours of online and offline trainings provided by YLAI. Finally all the books arrived and the library opened. Not even half-a-year later, their hard work paid off.

  Ibu Ari and Ibu Dayu reported that …we were surprised at how happy Wayan was when he came to us and showed us the books he liked and read. When we asked when he could read, he replied that there were many interesting books in the library for him to read. It was amazing. Ibu Ari, Wayan’s current homeroom teacher for the 5th grade, noticed the gradual changes in him. He was not as clammed up as he was before and was able to hold conversation with his teachers.  Instead of staying silent when I asked him a question, Wayan answered comfortably and confidently. Then one day, I went around the classroom to assist my students in a reading comprehension session as usual. I had noticed the improvement in Wayan yet I also braced myself for some degree of difficulty in assisting him. Wayan pleasantly surprised me. He happily agreed to read. He read the words and sentences albeit some minor errors here and there, but  compared to four months earlier when he barely could recognize the alphabet, this was a giant leap for Wayan. When I asked when he started to be confident reading, Wayan answered clearly it was because there was a library where he could read books at school.

Wayan started visiting the libraries almost every day to find books that he could read. Luckily, the library in his school is specifically designed to be easily navigated by children. The books are separated based on reading level instead of genre. This meant Wayan could find the books that were suitable for his reading level easily. These days, as his reading ability improves, Wayan’s ability to communicate also improves. Now, he even discusses his favorite books with his teachers. Ibu Ari and Ibu Dayu believe that all this time, a student like Wayan has always wanted to tell them stories. It was just because of their limited vocabulary caused by a lack of reading habit that made them hesitant to communicate with their teachers.

Ibu Ari and Ibu Dayu are only a small percentage of the 33,873 teachers assisted in YLAI’s program to achieve the common goal of building a reading culture in Indonesia. Building a reading culture has been a problem for many years in Indonesia. Indonesian children are not familiar with the activity of reading story books on a regular basis, and teachers also do not have adequate skills in helping with book reading activities, so literacy training is very important. Libraries need to be developed to become children’s favourite places to enjoy books and develop reading habits. Children are all too often denied access to a wide and varied curriculum without a solid foundation in literacy. The ability to read and write is a requirement for success in many aspects within livelihood. When it comes to helping people escape poverty and achieve greater self-sufficiency, literacy education is crucial.

As for future plans, YLAI will open 50 more libraries in Klungkung and Tabanan in August 2023, and 100 more in 2024/2025. Through this program, schools receive training in how to develop and manage a library within their school, as well as how to lead reading activities for children. We also provide hundreds of high-quality children’s reading books, to foster their interest, habit, and love of reading. These children’s reading books are culturally relevant and appropriate for children’s ages and reading abilities. Many have been developed by our experienced team of writers and illustrators.

In addition to its school library programs, YLAI also trains teachers in early grade reading programs, and is currently working in 90 schools in Buleleng, Karangasem and Klunkung under a pilot program with the Ministry of Education.

If you would like more information about the work of YLAI, or would llike to support the work of the libraries financially, please contact, The Library Team at [email protected], or visit


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