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Old 13th July 2010, 08:58 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Get 'em hooked on books early

Get 'em hooked on books early

young ones pick up is the passion of reading from their parents.

Tue, Jul 13, 2010
The New Paper

YOU'VE probably heard that it is never too early to start reading to your child, but to a new born baby?

Yes, it's possible, says Ms Zubaidah Mohsen, 44, a senior librarian with the Children's Services teamof Public Libraries Singapore (PLS).

"We encourage parents with children aged 0 to 3 to engage in activities that involve rhyming and play with words to offer language exposure," she said.

About 15 minutes a day would be enough to expose them to books, said the librarian of 19 years and a mother of three teenage boys.

She suggested using interactive books such as flip-the-flap books, musical books or touch-and-feel books to engage the little ones.

Pick up the passion But one doesn't need to be limited to books, she said. "You can read out road signs, flyers you get in the mail, magazines and newspapers to them. What these young ones pick up is the passion of reading from their parents."

As the children grow older, most of their time will be spent on schoolwork, extra-curricular activities and play.

So it is "vital to cultivate a strong reading habit while young and make reading part of their daily routine".

It has worked for Madam Ng Siew Hiong, 47, who has been taking her kids Gan Zi Heng, 7, and Yu Jing, 9, to the library since they were about three years old.

"I'd take them to the Fun With Tots storytelling sessions and they loved it," said the housewife.

Fun With Tots is for children 1 to 3 years old.

Because of Madam Ng's efforts, the bespectacled siblings are so hooked on reading that sometimes she has to get them to stop.

"They spend so much time reading that they neglect their homework," she said.

Another mother, Mrs Eileen Cheng, said her eldest son Chun Teng, 13, is an avid reader and carries a book wherever he goes.

Like Madam Ng, Mrs Cheng also took her son to the library at a young age.

But it is different situation with her younger sons Chun Hua, 9, and Chun Yuan, 10.

Both boys are more "interested in video games, watching TV and surfing the Internet".

Though they do like to read, Mrs Cheng, a housewife, has to enforce reading sessions and find ways to motivate them to pick up a book.

One motivation is the collection of Quest trading cards.

Quest, organised by PLS, is a four-part fantasy series about a boy and his adventures in a parallel universe where magical creatures live.

The story, written by Miss Felicia Chan, 26, a children's librarian with the National Library Board (NLB) for three years, is told on the back of 60 trading cards.

It can be read fully only when all the cards have been collected.

A pack of three random trading cards are issued with every four books borrowed from any of the regional or public libraries across the island except library@esplanade. The programme has seen a healthy response since it began in June last year.

According to NLB, between June 2008 and May 2009, the number of loans was about 3 million by girls aged seven to 12 and 2.5 million by boys of the same age group.

Over the following year, since the launch of Quest, the number of loans by girls went up by about 12 per cent and those by boys by about 17 per cent.

Said Miss Chan: "Boys generally like the trading card concept. Our records showed that 1.5 million cards were redeemed from June last year to the end of March this year, and three quarters of the cards issued were redeemed by boys."

For voracious reader and Quest fan Zi Heng, collecting the cards is also a way of making friends.

Mrs Cheng said that if her son saw any boys holding Quest cards, he would approach them to ask if they were keen to trade.

She said her boys used to go to the library only once a fortnight. But since Quest started, they have been going every week.

The younger boys have also moved on from comics to adventure and mystery books.

"They love the cards, and they like how the cards can also be turned into a card game," she said.


Ms Zubaidah acknowledged that reluctant readers do pick up interest if there is a game that is related to the story.

She also noted that usually, they are enticed by books that are movie-related, such as the Percy Jackson series of books and the Twilight saga.

Despite all the different reading programmes available at Singapore libraries, Ms Zubaidah stressed that it is the parents who have to cultivate their children's reading habits.

"Parents know their children best. They should know what kind of stories their kids like and their level of reading ability, and point them to the genres of books that will pique their interest."

The most important aspect is to make the reading experience fun, she said.


"Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth". - 1 John 3:18
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