Saturday, March 01, 2008

Reading opens up a world of possibilities for your child

One of the lessons I learnt from my experience in teaching children reading under the kidsREAD programme with the Chinese Development Assistance Council (CDAC) was how reading opens up a world of possibilities for your child!

Children are imaginative and creative

We were all children once. :-) If you observe children, you will realise that even in the absence of toys or distractions, they will sometimes come up with their own games and activities fashioned out of their very own creative minds.

Children have the power of imagination. However, even their imagination is bounded by what they hear, see, read and experience. One of the ways in which we can expand their experiences vicariously is through reading to them and getting them to develop this lifelong love for reading! Reading opens up realms of possibilities for them.

Fiction or story books, especially help them to dream about far-away places. Fantastical scenarios and creative characters that they may not meet in real life. Such stimuli helps them see the world of possibilities that exist through the settings, worlds and universes available through the story book.

Interaction with children through stories

When I interacted with my children during kidsREAD classes, I always made it a point to make the story interactive. Reading to children shouldn't be a monologue or a lecture. It is to bring to life the story in the book to the children, and to DRAW THEM INTO the world you have painted. How do you get the children interested in the book in the first place?

When I select a story book to read to the class, I will try to choose one that is suitable for their age group in terms of the level of vocabulary as well as the subject matter. Next, I will look for those books with beautiful or interesting illustrations as children are very attracted to well drawn illustrations that help them visualise the story and setting of the book.

Before I even start reading to the children, I will ask them questions to warm them up to the topic on hand. For example, when I was using the book "Wembley Worries" by Kevin Henkes, I would ask the class if they ever worried about anything in their lives. From there I would slowly ease the class into the book which showcases a mouse named Wembley who was a serial worrier until she met someone almost exactly like her and they learnt to worry less about things.

Children's books are easily available at public libraries

Nowadays, the amount of children's reading materials available at our well-stocked public libraries are amazing! What we lack is the time, energy and effort to sustain the reading effort to our children. If you are a parent, make time to read to your child regularly and your child may be the next top Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) student like Natasha Nabila Muhammad Nasir who was also 2007's top Malay student. who said that,

"The secret of my success is reading. I have been reading since I was two years old and I think that has helped me a lot. Through reading, I gained a lot of knowledge."

Even my sister who is an educator in mainstream education system in Singapore tells me that children nowadays can speak better than their previous cohorts, but the test of their academic achievement is still in reading and writing especially when it comes to continual assessment and year-end examinations.

Reading to your children will reap dividends for years to come.

Go visit any public library's children's section today!

Friday, February 22, 2008

kidsREAD will be making a return soon

With the impending birth of my daughter, I will resume kidsREAD blogging (but not the actual kidsREAD volunteer work) as I will be starting to read to my daughter even as she is an infant! :-)

Watch this space for more developments.

Read to your child, you never know what impact you can make in his or her life!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

kidsREAD: Taking A Long Break

I will be taking a longer break in kidsREAD as my wife and I are expecting a little bundle of joy sometime next year. Hence, I will need to prepare for my own little kidsREAD programme for my baby who is on the way. :-)

Looking back at my involvement in kidsREAD, it has been a fulfilling time and allowed me to understand children aged six to eight just that much better in some respects. It is also tough to be a parent in today's society as Singapore is a ruthless laboratory of social darwinism where survival of the fittest rules.

Children have the potential to grow and develop
One of the key life lessons I learnt during kidsREAD is that all children have the potential to grow despite their family backgrounds. The children in kidsREAD tend to be from lower income families and bigger families but I found very little correlation between their intelligence and ability against their social backgrounds. In fact, many of the mothers I met understand the value of education and send their children not only to kidsREAD but also other tuition programs offered by the Chinese Development Assistance Council.

Also, some of my brightest children in the kidsREAD class are from large families with four siblings and they all have the potential to be the next Prime Minister or Chief Executive Officer if we can nuture their talent and allow them to tap on opportunities despite their humble family backgrounds. They are the future of Singapore: each individual child endowed with the potential to be future leaders of this country.

Some of them read well even though at home they speak mostly mandarin as some of the parents do bring them to libraries and expose them to English reading material on top of school work and readings.

One in four adults in the US did not read a book in a year
I read this article which talked about how reading was at risk in the US as almost 25% of adults did not even read a single book in a year. Increasingly, that is the risk that alternative forms of media delivery such as the internet (youtube, dailymotion), television and radio takes us away from reading as a leisure activity, reading for personal growth and development and reading to understand more about the world around us.

Using myself, I too at times get lulled by the relative ease at which I can get content and info-tainment through cable televisions, internet music videos and from surfing the internet. However, my kidsREAD experience shows me that all is not lost. Children will still respond to books and reading if it is made a fun activity with interactivity between them and the books. The human element in communicating the story in the book to the children, bringing their attention to the pictures and illustrations in the book and getting to them read aloud all help to make it more active for them and less passive. That is one of the keys of arousing their interest in reading.

Reading is for you, for me, for all to see!
Reading is a critical lifeskill that you can impart to your child. It is not just about learning something to pass exams and get a paper qualification. It is about empowering them to learn how to learn new knowledge, skills and experiences in the ever-changing world: through reading, reading and more reading.

Empower your child today:

Read to them
Read with them
Read, read and read.

Read well, live well.