12 Mar 2020

Tongan author building young readers' confidence in speaking English

1:05 pm on 12 March 2020

Classic children's books such as Thumbelina and Charlotte's Web are being used to boost the confidence of young Tongans learning to speak English.

Olini Fonua and some of her students.

Olini Fonua and some of her students. Photo: Supplied.

Tongan author Olini Fonua has started a literacy scheme called Olini's Reading Program in Maufanga.

English is compulsory in Tongan high schools and Ms Fonua was doing her bit to equip young children with reading and writing skills before they reached college.

However, Ms Fonua said her programme was open to all who were interested in learning English.

"Tongans can get very shy when they attempt to speak English, but I want this programme to build their self-esteem so that they are not speechless when reading a passage or are able to speak confidently in front of a crowd."

"I have watched my students who have started off with zero confidence because they lacked vocabulary and through my lessons on learning new words, their confidence has grown where they are sharing with me their thoughts in English."

Ms Fonua currently self-funds her programme, but she has received a donation of books from the Book For Tonga Community in New Zealand.

"I am still seeking assistance to help increase the reading capacity, as well as the space for them to read because currently we meet Tuesdays and Thursdays for an hour in the evening at the bed and breakfast where I work."