Francyne Harrigan, the Director of the UN's Information Centre in Jakarta talks to us about how she brought the UN SDG Book Club initiative to Indonesia with a local twist.
How do you see books contributing to the SDGs?
Books open up whole new worlds, stoke imagination and can inspire action. The SDG Book Club is a tool to encourage Indonesian children to engage with the principles of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – 17 goals that aim to achieve a more prosperous future through improving health and education, reducing inequalities, and addressing climate change and environmental degradation – through the power of literature and storytelling.
The initiative was launched at the global level in 2019 using a curated list of stories from around the world to educate children ages 6-12 on the SDGs. The SDG Book Club Indonesia builds on this global initiative to include local stories in Bahasa Indonesia that reflect the values of the SDGs from an Indonesian perspective. In the Indonesian context, children’s literature is also still growing, so the initiative serves the additional purpose of working with local authors and communities to grow and share local stories.
How important is it to teach children to live more sustainably through books?
Young people have a powerful role to play in achieving the SDGs who have the power and often the desire to take action. With schools closed and many children forced to stay home due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the United Nations in Indonesia focused on a virtual launch and online Book Club title release aimed at empowering Indonesian children to learn about sustainable development.
The books were further supplemented with resources targeted at student volunteers, teachers, and parents so that they can read alongside and highlight lessons from the 2030 Agenda and ways to take action.
How have you inspired younger generations to take up the call for action?
Reading and learning are essential for children’s growth. The SDG Book Club aims to empower Indonesian children through literature and foster a love of reading and sharing of knowledge and ideas with parents and friends.
For Indonesia, we also explored partnering with universities who have a compulsory volunteer program each summer for all students where they go to villages across the country. The idea - which has been put on hold during the pandemic - was for students to take an SDGs themed book to communities and schools and read to children, thereby introducing to the students knowledge of the Goals, while through reading in schools, strengthening young children’s reading and listening abilities and encouraging them to explore action around the core themes of each book.
Each book has an accompanying teaching aid to share more resources and suggestions for taking action on the related SDG featured in the book. So, the story doesn’t stop with the book ending, but can continue in the real world!
What do you hope children who read the recommended books do to help achieve the Goals?
The curated SDG Book Club reading list, plus the teaching tools are meant to encourage and reinforce: a diversity in sources of learning – using stories to instil values of tolerance, peace and respect; the importance of the issues that are embedded in the Goals, such as climate change, and actions to combat it; and the empowerment of children as agents for change and forging partnerships to solve problems. Ultimately, we hope children will take the knowledge and awareness with them outside of the classroom, when they’re dealing with others who may be different from them or thinking twice about their choices, for example when they buy a drink and decline a straw, enabling them to play an active role in keeping the oceans around Indonesia clean.
We call on everyone to be a part of the story – join us online at the SDG Book Club Indonesia. Followers can post their thoughts and images on social media using the hashtag #SDGBookClub. Please tag/follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.