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Building Blocks for Teaching Children to Read: BukuAku’s Newest Learning Tools

Reading is foundational to a child’s development – research has found that reading fosters brain development, stretches the mind’s ability to imagine, and develops the socio-emotional skills that a child will need later in life. Through reading, children can get a head start in life by laying strong foundations for academic development and lifelong learning. 

Unfortunately, the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) report released by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 2022 showed that Indonesian students scored a low level of reading literacy. 

Perlita Paean Nikijuluw has a goal to change this by developing leveled reading materials – a series of books of increasing complexity – for the Bahasa Indonesia language. As the Head of Content Development at BukuAku, Paean takes inspiration from the Lexile-based system of leveled reading and applies the same thought process for the Indonesian language, which currently lacks a structured framework of reading. 

“Giving books to your little one shouldn’t be just based on their age. Parents also need to pay attention to their reading ability. By knowing which level your child’s is currently at, they will be reading more suitable books at a level they can manage, which in turn will enhance their comprehension and significantly boost their literacy skills,” said Perlita. 

At BukuAku, the books are divided into two key stages: pre-reading and reading. The pre-reading series covers the fundamental skills of print awareness, phonological awareness, letter knowledge, listening comprehension and motivation to read. It has three levels:  

  • A (read-to-me/read aloud): designed for young kids in early childhood who are yet unable to read and are being introduced to books and new vocabularies. The books in this level contain a maximum of 90 words. 
  • B (first-time reader): stories with simple phrases and sentences. The vocabularies are in the same level as A. Designed for children who are just learning to read. Contain a maximum of 30 words.  
  • C (independent reader): different stories developed from the same pool of vocabularies as in B, for children who have been able to read by themselves. Contain a maximum of 60 words.  

Meanwhile, in the reading series, children progress to books which have a more advanced vocabularies, grammar, pronunciation, theme and plot. By reading longer texts students will have the opportunity to experiment with language as a way to convey ideas, opinions and range of emotions. This series are divided into three levels: 

  • Level 1: Stories with simple theme and text, containing a maximum of 150 words. 
  • Level 2: Stories with deeper theme and characters, containing a maximum of 250 words. 
  • Level 3: Stories with longer, more complex backstory, characters and plot to broaden their horizon and get them to start thinking critically, containing a maximum of 400 words. 

To choose the right level, according to Perlita, a widely accepted method is the ‘rule of three’, meaning there should be no more than about three unfamiliar words per page, otherwise a reader should pick a lower-level book. Parents and teachers as the stakeholders can also help to decide in this regard.  

“The main purpose of graded readers is reading for pleasure, so children should not struggle trying to understand the stories due to difficult vocabularies they are yet familiar with. But BukuAku also has a dictionary feature if the aim is to learn new vocabularies,” explained Perlita. 

This initiative is also supported by UPH’s newly established Center for Language and Culture Studies (PSBB), spearheaded by two renowned linguistics experts — Prof. Dr. Drs. Suroso, M.Pd and Prof. Dr. R. Kunjana Rahardi, M.Hum — who conducted research on children’s development of language and literacy skills and transformation of language learning through cyberpragmatics and artificial intelligence (AI), which includes leveled reading and phonics.  

Established in mid-2023, BukuAku has been well-received by parents and educators in Indonesia. It now boasts over 20,000 subscribers and an impressive collection of 1,200 curated children’s story books from 20 local and international publishers. 

BukuAku is stuffed with useful features such as Read-to-Me (audio books), Dictionary Look-up, Quizzes, Badges Award, Parental Monitoring and Classroom Assignment. 

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