It turned out that the best icebreaker for shy children who meet new people is saying “selfie”! When we were introduced as people coming from IKEA Austria (not to be confused with Australia) and IKEA Netherlands, they looked a bit confused.
When we showed pictures of our home countries, they already felt more comfortable and they were very interested in our lives. When I showed a pictures of my cat, they asked the name of the cat. And another girl told me she has four cats at her home. Despite the language barrier, they were very open to sharing stories.
But my favourite part of the day was when they were asked to pick their favourite book and read together with a classmate. They had so much fun reading, which assured me of the fact that they read because they like it, not because they are forced to. Studies show that when you make a habit of reading, your reading skills improve and school results get better. And if your school results are better, it is more likely you’ll continue your education after the mandatory school.
I even practised my Bahasa (the local language in this part of Indonesia) by reading a book out loud with two boys. They helped me when I couldn’t pronounce a word and they listened carefully. It was a story about a crocodile and I will never forget the word for crocodile in Bahasa; buaya!