Improving Students’ Reading Comprehension and Communications Skills through Storytelling

Storytelling can be a fun activity for children. This activity is also often done by parents for their children. At school, children are also presented with interesting learning and fun story books for them to read and teachers have long made storytelling as part of their teaching strategies.

In Sumba Island, East Nusa Tenggara, reading stories or storytelling is not quite common in the community and at schools. The absence of appropriate learning aids such as story books and teachers who have not adequately trained in such method are some of the reasons this practice has not yet become part of learning in schools. Not surprisingly, elementary school students, especially in the early grades, have a relatively low interest in reading.

However, positive changes have begun ever since the early grade literacy program was implemented through the INOVASI program in several schools in Sumba. The schools assisted by the program have begun to try various learning strategies to overcome this challenge.

In West Sumba for example, first grade teacher of SD Negeri Lokory, Apliana B. Awang develops her own teaching aids in the form of big books. She does this because the existing story books do not fit Sumba context, making it difficult for students to relate what they learn with what they experience in their daily lives.

At first, Apliana and her fellow teachers developed 20 different big books with themes reflecting the daily lives of Sumba children especially in West Sumba, such as family tree and tradition, traditional clothes and houses, and local fruits.

Later, Apliana created 14 other big books. This time, the contents of the books are not stories but vocabularies commonly found and used in daily communications of the students such as animals, fruits, Sumba culture, and so on. Each page consists of only one vocabulary but comes in bahasa Indonesia and the local language. Despite this, when using the books, Apliana tells stories that contain the words students are learning and help them recognize the words. The stories are usually related to Sumba people and culture.

Based on Apli’s observation, combining the use of big books and storytelling has made students more motivated to study and easier to memorise the vocabularies they learn. Oftentimes, students even beg to substitute their teacher to read out the vocabularies in the big books. This method helps students acquire vocabularies faster and read sooner.

In East Sumba, fourth grade teacher of SD Inpres Laipori, Itha Lape uses story books as a medium for reading aloud in a child-friendly library. This library is a collaboration between INOVASI and TBP (Taman Bacaan Pelangi). During the reading aloud activity, the teacher reads the story by emphasising expression. The children sit on the carpet provided while the teacher sits in front of them.

“Hauunnnnnngggg!” Itha exclaimed, expressing the roar of a tiger in the story she read. No sound was heard from the children when Itha began to read stories. They enjoyed the expressions presented by their teacher and couldn’t wait for what would happen next. “Usually in KBM (learning and teaching process) in class, they (students) are very difficult to manage. But it comes to an activity like this (reading a story), they immediately sit neatly and quietly,”said Itha.

Earlier this month, a number of delegates from the Ministry of Education of Afghanistan visited SD Inpres Laipori and had the opportunity to see how Itha conducted the reading aloud activity. They were amazed by the way Itha read the story full of immersion.

“I have never seen this (the way the teacher read the story) before. She (Itha) was really immersed when reading the story and the students felt like they were the characters of the story,” said Shafiullhaq Rahimi, Deputy Chief of Party of Afghan Child Read Program who joined the team of the Ministry of Education.

Itha says reading stories that way increases the focus and attention of the students, making them easier to remember information from the stories and to comprehend the stories. This is evident from the ability of the students to retell the stories that they have just read or to answer questions about the stories.

Improving Students’ Reading Comprehension and Communications Skills through Storytelling