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.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

kidsREAD: A short break

I have not been updating kidsREAD as regularly as I was on vacation for two weeks and was involved in the SIM National Management Competition 2007 where our team was fortunate enough to come in 2nd Runner-Up (third!) in the competition.

The interesting thing is that readership of this blog has spiked recently and I am getting a number of hits from the US of A!

Here's wishing readers from the United States a good day surfing my site and drop a comment if you'd like to know more about kidsREAD programme in Singapore.

For my Singaporean readers, do drop a comment too if you are interested in kidsREAD as we do have some student volunteers who need to take a break to focus on their studies leading up to their school examinations. We are always on the lookout for people who have an interest in teaching reading and literacy skills to children aged 4 to 8 and who like to work with children every Saturday from 10.30 am to 11.30 am (younger children's class) and/or 11.30 am to 12.30 pm (older children's class).

Have a great day and more updates when I am back in my kidsREAD class!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Wemberly worries by Kevin Henkes

My kidsREAD class has more girls than boys aged seven to eight. Today only one of the two boys appeared in the class while most of the girls turned up. Girls' reading abilities appear to be better that the boys at their current ages. Most of the girls in my class are quite good readers except for one or two who need to catch up with the rest of their peers. I am blessed to have a class where they are no behavioural problems and the children are all quite enthusiastic regardless of their abilities.

We read the book, "Wemberly Worries" by Kevin Henkes during this kidsREAD class. The book's main character is the mouse called Wemberly who in the words of her grandmother was always about being in the state of, "worry, worry, worry!". This is one of the recommended kidsREAD story books written by Kevin Henkes who also has a series of books titled "Chrysanthemum" about a girl who was teased about her name.

The children took turns to read each page from the book while I asked them about what they were worried about in their lives. Most of the standard answers were "I dunno" but some did worry about exams and parents not being around for them. During the kidsREAD volunteers training, the trainer recommended this book for us to use if we wanted to share with children about the topic of worrying as the children who were worriers could identify themselves with the main character Wemberly who had the habit of stroking her rabbit doll Petal.

"Wemberly Worries" illustrations were quite well drawn as in water colours and ink and the children enjoyed looking at what happened during each stage of Wemberly's worries.

The exercise that followed, taken from the kidsREAD 2B workbook, was for the children to draw a picture of their best friend and the things they like to do. I gave the children some hints on what they could write e.g. My best friend and I like to _____________ (talk to each other, complain about boys, play together etc.). We didn't break into small group reading this round as there was only K and myself in for today's session for the Primary one and two class.

It was an enjoyable session as the children seemed to be in a good mood today and everyone seemed to like the book in the way they responded to it.

I will be on vacation for the next week or so and will updated from 1 August 2007.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

What kidsREAD taught me

This cute girl is in my kidsREAD class and has made good progress in her kidsREAD journey. I was a little bit disappointed that she has not been appearing in my class since the second half of the term has started as I think she can continue to benefit from our reading program and the volunteers can teach her. She has good attitude and is a very fun-loving girl. Her elder sister was also in the program.

What kidsREAD taught me
Life as a volunteer comes with its ups and its downs. Lack of attendance of a child or withdrawal of a child from the program can be due to many factors and not just yourself. Hence, I learn not to take things personally when it does not go my way.

On the contrary, when you see that you are making a real difference in the children's lives, there is a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction. It takes time for progress to show up as the children will grow at their own pace. Some of them pick things up very fast, some less so. You need to have determination to see things through even if you do not always get to see the result.

One of the challenges in kidsREAD that I encounter is being able to see visible improvement in my children's reading abilities. Most of the children's time are spent in primary school where the mainstream education system is in charge of their development. The other major part of their lives are spent at home with their family and that is where parents' and siblings involvement in the children's education yields returns. My kidsREAD class is only one hour on Saturday mornings. What can that one hour do? :-)

Having been a volunteer with the Chinese Development Assistance Council for the last six to seven years has taught me patience. While we may not see the immediate results from our efforts, I truly believe that if you do the best that you can and pour some of your life into the children, they will benefit in some ways no matter how small. :-)

Teaching kidsREAD also hones my skills in interacting with children. I now realise I am more relaxed with my class partly because I am familiar with the children. But I also start to relate to them at their level. If they throw tantrums in class, I do not lose my temper. Instead, I throw a mock tantrum back at them and this usually allows them to see how they are behaving. I also learn to interact with the children, allow them to speak and interrupt me sometimes so that there is interactivity. Children get bored very fast and having a two-way communication during the class helps the children get interested in what is happening.

Would you like to learn how to work with children in a reading program? Leave your email in the comments page and I will get in touch with you!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Calling for kidsREAD volunteers

You have been studying and working and find that life has become a meaningless routine. You realise that getting that paper qualification and earning that salary meets your needs but yet doesn't satisfy your soul. You ponder if you can somehow re-ignite the spark in your life, that feeling that there is more to life than just living your own, that you can do more for others, for society and for children...

You have found yourself in my kidsREAD blog!

Is there more to life than work or study
What you are going through is not unique. For a big chunk of my life, I was involved in other extra-curricular activities even as my career started and I have been involved in many different domains as diverse as personal finance to public speaking to teaching children reading skills in kidsREAD. :-)

I discovered from my volunteering activities that while all of us only have 24 hours in a day, our hours become more meaningful when it is applied to endeavours that touch lives.

Your unique experiences shape who you are and who you will become
My toastmastering has allowed me to share a little about myself, my experiences and my soul to others through public speaking.

My personal finance blog allows me to think through my own attitudes about wealth, health and happiness and to sharpen my focus on achieving financial freedom.

My kidsREAD volunteering activities has allowed me to interact with families and especially children from less advantaged families, and allow me to contribute back what the mainstream education system has given me. The gift of knowledge and the privilege of touching lives through something as simple as sharing a story with children.

How about you?
Do you want to touch lives too?
Do you want to leave a meaningful legacy not in dollars and cents but in the memories of young children who remember a volunteer who taught them reading?
Do you want to try something new and experience for yourself the intrinsic joy of giving?

kidsREAD may be for you.

To find out more, please leave a comment to this post and preferably a contact email so that I can get in touch with you. :-)

kidsREAD starts on 30 June at the Jurong Student Service Centre of the Chinese Development Assistance Council.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

This is the face of the future

Originally uploaded by panzergrenadier.
Two more weeks before kidsREAD restarts at our centre! The picture on the right is that of one of my ex-kidsREAD students. He has graduated from the program and I hope he is doing well in his studies, especially English!

Children are our future. Without children, there would be no continuity and all our endeavours however magnificent will fail to be appreciated unless there is a future generation that can be there to appreciate it.

I do not have children of my own (yet! :-) )and see the kidsREAD class as a way to build skills in relating to children. I have 3 nieces whom I get to see on their birthdays and family gatherings. They are growing up so fast. The eldest is already in Primary Six will will be going onto Secondary school next year.

Time really flies and before you know it, you become mature enough and financially stable enough to go for more adventures but you lose the interest and inclination to pursue them. :-)

Two more weeks before the kidsREAD classes will rejuvenate, revitalise and recharge me for the year ahead!

Interested in kidsREAD? Drop a comment in my comments page and I will get back to you!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

kidsREAD 2nd Anniversary on 23 April 2006

The kidsREAD 2nd Anniversary was held last year on 23 April 2006 at the NLB @ Central at Bras Basah. Here are some scans of the brochure that was given that day.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

kidsREAD is about kids having fun reading

kidsREAD is about kids having fun reading. What else can be simpler?

Do we need to be experts before we teach?
I used to think that to be a volunteer and to work with children, you need to come armed with a degree or diploma in early childhood education to that you do not teach the children the wrong things. Yes, it's important to know what you are teaching, but it's more important to approach the whole idea of working with children from the right perspective.

Children have great learning capacities
Children all have a great capacity to learn and natural curiosity. That is something I learnt from my kidsREAD volunteering for the past one and a half year. You first need to grab their attention, get them interested in reading and to associate it with a fun activity before any progress can be made. The older model of "forced" learning and rote learning is increasing giving way to engaging the children and guiding them along where their natural curiosity will take them!

It is with this approach that I start my kidsREAD classes warming up the class. This involves getting them to sit in a semi-circle near me, where all can see me and more importantly, I can see everyone and know who is paying attention and who is not. In addition, this puts as little barriers between myself and the children so they do not feel so distant from the volunteer teaching them. I talk to them and find out about how they are. Why they look so tired or chirpy or whatever, just to get them to be responsive. Once their engines have been started, I start the class reading with one of the big books with bright illustrations and we have our reading together session.

Early challenges teaching kidsREAD
One of the things that tended to put me off during my kidsREAD classes was too many questions thrown at me and me not knowing which child to respond to first. After a while, I realise I am not a machine and cannot answer all sequentially in the same order that their questions asked. I will try to respond individually but still need to make affirmative noises "umm...ah.. I see.." before moving on with the classroom reading. I also needed to respond to the children in their manner. For example, when they sulk or pout when the book is not what they want to read, I will mirror their behaviour and that usually surprises them and they will stop their sulking. ;-) I am blessed that my class are generally very well behaved and they also are all very photogenic as the picture above demonstrates. I salute their mothers and fathers for bringing them to kidsREAD to build a firm foundation in their english literary skills.

K is for kidsREAD!

P.S. We are having a holiday break and will resume kidsREAD sessions on 30 June 2007, Saturday.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The kidsREAD story brochure produced by National Library Board

I attended the kidsREAD volunteers appreciation ceremony on 28 April 2007 and each volunteer was given well-made brochure on "The kidsREAD Story - Dedicated To All kidsREAD Volunteers". I have scanned in the entire brochure and made it available on my blog.

Objectives of kidsREAD as well as who are the partners and sponsors.

3,000 children have been served in the last 3 years and how 52 reading clubs have been set up all over Singapore

1,000 volunteers have come forward to help out since year 2004.

Some of the memorable moments such as the MRT read-n-ride as well as the launch of kidsREAD by PM Lee Hsien Loong on 23 April 2004 at Woodlands Regional Library

All the various kidsREAD clubs in Singapore. kidsREAD clubs can be found in schools, libraries, self-help groups such as CDAC (student service centres), Mendaki (mosques), MCYS (family service centres), student care centres etc.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Story reading is for you, for me, for everyone!

Contrary to popular belief, the self-help groups do open up their programs to people of all races and religions. I volunteer at the Chinese Development Assistance Council's (CDAC) centre at Jurong West and my class of 7 to 8 year olds include some malay students. The photograph above shows two of them. The boy is 7 year old while the girl on the right with her hand outstretched is eight.

I have seen improvement in both their reading abilities and the girl has been in my class for 1.5 year or so. I remember when she first joined the program, she was fun loving (she still is!) but she didn't have the confidence to read in class. Hence, when it came to her turn to read, she wanted to give it a miss. Over time, as she realised the rest of her classmates were having such a fun time participating in the group reading session, she also decided to join in and have improved tremendously in terms of her attitude and approach to reading. Now she sees it as a fun activity and not a compulsory you must do it sort of activity.

You may be wondering how I conduct my kidsREAD classes. Typically, there is a lot of interaction between myself and the children. You have to get children to warm up as some of them are still not in tune to the class when their mothers bring there there. I would get them to talk by asking them about school, whether exams are coming, what date is it today in the calendar and so on. Pretty soon, once everyone starts coming into the class, I will then start the class reading with me leading in one of the big story books and the children will take turn to read each page as I pause, ask them questions and get them involved in the book.

I didn't know that I enjoyed kidsREAD so much until I got myself involved in this volunteer program. Working with children is fun and I am blessed to have a class of relatively well behaved and very smart children. The common denominator is that their families need a helping hand but other than that they are very bright children with very good potential to go far in their academic work.

If you would like to volunteer to work with children, leave a comment and a contact email so that I can follow up with you!

Story reading is a fun and enriching activity and really it's about learning to read in a condusive environment. It is for you, for me for everyone!

Saturday, June 02, 2007

How to get children to learn reading in a relaxed setting

How do children and even adults learn? By being relaxed. ;-)

Originally uploaded by panzergrenadier.
The picture shows one of my students in the kids-read programme having a whale of a time as we did our group reading using a large ground mat so that the children can jump around and be relaxed.

It was an experiment I tried to see if changing the layout of the classroom would make a difference to how the class progressed. And how it worked!

Children once freed from the confines of their desks and chairs where there is a pre-determined place to sit, a defined space from which to participate in the class, the physical layout imposes rules whether spoken or unspoken about whether you can move around, fidget, explore your space. Once they are set free (as the picture above shows) it allows their natural energy, exuberance and enthusiasm to come forth through them running around, jumping, lying on the mat and trying different types of positions because all this was not possible when they were confined by their desks and chairs.

I found that the lesson was more fun for the children but it made me teaching them somewhat more challenging as they are not so inclined to sit still given the continguous space they were allowed to use. Those children who were more active took advantage of the opportunity to allow their kinesthetic learning styles to emerge! :-)

It was a very energetic class and I found myself literally chasing after some of them as they wanted to even try leaping from the desk onto the ground mat.

Eventually, things got sorted out and we managed to do our class reading as well as break-up into small group reading.

This experiment allowed me to try out another way of teaching the children through exploring the more physical aspects even as we are doing a traditionally sedentary activity such as story reading. It was useful for me to learn to let the children "blow off steam" by allowing them to let their natural energy express itself through they physical movements.

Hmm.. I last tried this format almost a year ago. Perhaps it could be time to try it again this year?

Let's see how it turns out and I will update this blog with the experiment if it is tried again!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Volunteering at a kidsREAD Program Near You!

Originally uploaded by PanzerGrenadier
The kidsREAD programme at our centre is taking a break until we start again on 30 June 2007 Saturday. Since its inception at our Chinese Development Assistance Council's Jurong Student Service Centre in October 2005, our program has provided opportunities for students from Junior Colleges such as Jurong Junior College (JJC) as well as undergraduates from National University of Singapore as well as Nanyang Technological University to help out as volunteers in our kidsREAD program. Read more about kidsREAD background here.

What does it take to volunteer at a kidsREAD program?
Typical kidsREAD class at Jurong Student Service Centre
At our centre, we have three kidsREAD classses conducted once a week on Saturdays. Two of the classes for the younger children aged 4 to 6 are held at 10.30 am to 11.30 am on most Saturdays except for school holidays in December and in June. The third class is from 11.30 am to 12.30 pm for older children aged 7 to 8. This is the class that I teach regularly. ;-)

Typically, what we do in my class is as follows:

1. Class reading of Big Children's Book (Judy Ling series) - 15 to 25 minutes
2. Break-up into smaller groups of 2-4 students for small group reading with volunteers - 15-30 minutes
3. Wrap up with game/activity (if time permits) - 5 to 10 minutes

The main reason I enjoy the program so much and have been a volunteer for one and a half years is because it is non-academic so the children have fun during the class. In addition, I am rediscovering the joy of children's books and reading to children: skills that help me to be a better toastmaster which is my other passion in life. :-)

Interaction and Teaching Children is Fun
My fellow volunteers and I also enjoy interacting with children and it's interesting to note that there are only two men volunteering in this program. Most of the other volunteers were women which was typical according to one of the trainers who conducted one of the kidsREAD training sessions organised by the National Library Board.

The women volunteers prefer to interact with the younger class as they are so cute. I prefer teaching the older class because they are able to hold a conversation with you while the younger ones are still too young to engage them. I find it fasinating to see how smart children can be at that age and some of them are very bright kids who come from low income families. They have some much potential and if they were given better opportunities in life they could be the next Sim Wong Hoo, Albert Einstein or even Leonardo Da Vinci!

Consider Volunteering Now!
If you are thinking of volunteering in a fun environment, where you also pick up skills in teaching reading and literacy to children aged 4 to 8 years old. Drop me a note to indicate your interest and I will get in touch with you! One of our volunteers Angie came into our program because I met her at the official opening of the Raffles Junior College Shaw Foundation Library and subsequently her interest was piqued in our kidsREAD program because she thought it would be fun and this kidsREAD blog helped to arouse her interest in the program.

Don't just take my word for it, try it out to see if it suits you.

We can use our time in studies, career or making money, but at the end of the day, are we defined by the dollars we have in the bank or the lives we have touched in our journey on earth?

kidsREAD is about touching lives. You can start now...

Friday, May 25, 2007

Unleash the Creativity in Your Child Through Reading

I will be speaking at the Home Team NS Entrepreneurs Club for their Mini Talks by Women's Chapter on:

25 May 2007 (Friday)
7.30 pm to 10.30 pm
CELL Room, HomeTeamNS Bukit Batok Clubhouse
Charges: HTNSpreneur FOC
Member: $5.00
Guest: $8.00
(Charges are by Home Team NS Club, I doing this presentation FOC.)

Areas that I'll be covering include:
  • Understand the role story reading plays in creativity
  • Learn how to read stories to and with your children
  • Appreciate what are suitable children’s books
  • Sharing of kidsREAD volunteering experience
Do drop by if you happen to be in the vicinity. :-)

Post Script:

It was a cosy affair as we had 5 speakers covering various aspects of entrepreneurship as well as sharing of experiences of turning hobbies into a living. Toastmasters Edmund Chew, Susan Wong, Boon Hwee, John Woo and myself spoke on areas ranging from:
  • DNA - Discovery, Networking and Action (Edmund Chew)
  • Turning a floral arrangement hobby to a business (Susan Wong)
  • Passion for food business (John Woo)
  • Unleashing creativity in children through reading (myself)
  • From internal auditor to business women (Boon Hwee)
I also learnt from these fellow experienced toastmasters about how they sought out their entrepreneurial paths and the struggles and challenges they went through in their respective journeys. Highly enjoyable!

It never fails to amaze me how I learn something new everytime I attend a toastmasters meeting!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Frog and the wide World - Max Velthuijs

Originally uploaded by lunatic_fringe.
We did "Frog and the wide World" by Max Velthuijs during the kidsREAD class for the group reading. The book reminded me of "The Wind in the Willows" by Kenneth Grahame because of the characters of Rat and Frog who basically went on a journey together to explore the wide world but discovered that home was the best of all because of their friends.

This book was considerably longer than Judy Ling's big picture books and it took me almost 40 minutes to read it together with the children. It has delightful illustrations and a simple storyline. However, the children did feedback that they did not enjoy the story as much as it was too simple even by their standards. There main point about the story was the different emotions that Frog felt as he followed Rat on the journey. He was excited and enthusiastic at first, but his enthusiasm slowly waned as both of them journeyed further and further away from their homes.

That mirrors life in some respects as I believe most of us have embarked on journeys in our life and ultimately, the draw of home and the feeling of homesickness strikes us to a greater or lesser extent and we all heed to unspoken call to head for home sweet home.

I will use this book in future for the more advanced readers because it is more suited for the primary 2 children as it has longer sentences and a wider vocabulary than other books. Its length is also not conducive for a quick read with the children as it gets boring as the hook on "what next" is quite predictable.

Next week will be the last session at our centre before we return on 30 June.

Wishing all volunteers, parents and readers happy June holidays. :-)

Monday, May 07, 2007

Video of kidsREAD Class: Coming Soon!

An NIE trainee-teacher Audrey came to visit our centre on 7 April 2007 and was filming our class for her academic assignment. I had wanted to film our kidsREAD sessions but had not done so because I did not have a video camera, video editing software/hardware and the time and inclination to do so. Audrey's video recording on mpeg is a great gift to us as now I can upload it into youtube and share with the other kidsREAD centres within the Chinese Development Assistance Council student service centres where kidsREAD clubs operate as well as with the larger kidsREAD community.

The issue now is to edit the video as youtube has some size restrictions and I also want to try out video editing using ULead's Videostudio 8 software. :-)

Thanks Audrey for the video and it has fired up my interest to video the kidsREAD sessions as a record and to also cut a kidsREAD starter pack for volunteers. ;-)

Stay tuned!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Reading to Your Children

Having volunteered with kidsREAD and spending most of my Saturday mornings reading to my class of 7 to 8 year-olds, I realise that reading to children allows us to understand more on our own child's learning styles.

Some children are visual learners. They absorb new words and sentences through looking at the words and figuring out how to read them and to make sense of them.

Others are aural (hearing) learners. They pick up words quickly based on how you pronounce them. Hence, it is important how we read and speak to children as they also pick up the correct and incorrect pronunication from their environment. I have children who cannot read sentences well due to their weak foundation in English but their ability to repeat accurately the word I just read to them was uncanny!

Some children learn by touch and their senses (kinesthetic) which makes them seem fidgety and not able to sit down quietly to read their stories.

All these types of learners can benefit from parents spending time to read to them. :-) Reading stories to children helps visual learners as they can also follow the words and illustrations or pictures in the storybook. Aural learners pick up new words and sounds that are fascinating to them and they relish repeating the choice words and phrases. Kinesthetic learners can interact with pop up books and role play some of the characters and animals in the book.

Reading stories to and with children also allow parents to bond with their children. I can still recall the stories that my father read to me while I was five or six years of age. The story was about a polar bear called Puck. Whilst the details of the book escape me, I can still remember my father's voice reading to me the story. It still warms my heart everytime I remember the time he spent reading to me. Your child may have similar memories when he grows up so invest in his memories now! ;-)

Children develop a life-long love for reading if it is seen as a fun family activity and not homework or a chore to be completed. We can engage our child's sense of fun and excitement about discovering new worlds and situations in stories that engage our intellect and emotions at the same time. We as adults soon re-discover the joy of reading and finding out with our child the excitement of finding out how the story develops.

So parents, go visit the nearest National Library branch and stock up on a lifetime of memories for your children!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

National Library Board Volunteers' Appreciation Day at Geylang East Library

kidsREAD took a break this Saturday (28 April 2007) as volunteers were involved in the Appreciation Day organised by the National Library Board at their Geylang East Community Library near Aljunied MRT station.

kidsREAD volunteers that had been involved in the program for more than 1.5 years were given a plaque as well as some Borders book vouchers. A, Ag, K and myself were present at the event representing Jurong Student Service Centre kidsREAD club to receive the awards. The event was held at the auditorium on the 3rd floor of the Geylang East library and I could see that most of the kidsREAD volunteers were students ranging from upper secondary to JC to undergraduates. I met a NUS undergrad who helped out at a kidsREAD club set up in a family service centre and it was refreshing to see so many young people involved in this volunteer activity.

The Chairman of the kidsREAD advisory committee Mrs Koh-Kiang gave a heartfelt message about the kidsREAD programme and she thanked the volunteers for their efforts in the program. The CEO of NLB, Dr. Prasad, spoke on the developments of the program and how the Totalisator Board was going to sponsor the program for the next 5 years from 2007. That is indeed good news as the number of kidsREAD clubs now stand at 52 with over 1,000 volunteers and 3,000 beneficiaries from the program.

Personally, I have seen the positive effects of the program on my class and am glad to see that the Tote Board is putting money into helping children of lower income improve their reading and literacy skills as well as to help inculcate in them a lifelong love for reading. ;-)

It has been 1 year 8 months since I have joined the kidsREAD program and volunteering in the program has helped me grow in terms of presentation skills. I now know how to read to children aged about 6 to 8 as well as to interact with them with less trepidation and fear. I am more confident of my ability to hold the attention of primary 1 to 2 children and also in my vocal variety skills. In addition, I have become more attuned to focussing my attention across several children who speak at the same time and get less stressed dealing with the cacophony of voices clamouring for my attention simultaneously. :-) I have learnt how to recruit new volunteers to the program as well as reaped tangible benefits from faithfully updating this blog as a way to reach out to possible volunteers.

I still have a lot to learn about dealing with children compared to my relatives who have had 30-40 years of teaching experience in primary schools. But the learning I have received is good enough for a non-teacher! ;-)

Would you like to know more about kidsREAD? Drop me a comment and I'll get back to you!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Kumquats and Seasons

Date: 21 April 2007 (Saturday)
Volunteers: YJ, K, A, myself
Children: 6/10 (4 absent: YZ - school, Az, Z, C)

It's nearing the mid-terms and some of the children were unable to make it for the class. I read the book, "The Golden Kumquat Tree" by Anne Smith to the children and it was a book that I could use to talk about the 4 seasons (spring, summer, autumn, winter) as well as some Lunar New Year festivities. The in-coming coordinator MQ remarked that our children are generally well-behaved. :-) I concur with her view and not only are the children in our class generally very well-behaved and obedient, they are also very cute and photogenic. :-)))

Next Saturday will see us taking a break as the National Library Board is organising a kidsREAD volunteers' appreciation event at Geylang East Library and this would be a chance to meet up with fellow kidsREAD volunteers from other centres and locations. I am glad to have attended this session as I thought it would help me relax and let my mind not worry about the speech contest that was happening later. Fortunately, I managed to place 1st in the Table-Topics Contest and I credit kidsREAD volunteering in helping me improve my vocal variety because reading to children requires one to practice varying one's volume, pitch, speed and enunciation.

Will see the class again on 5 May after the May Day holidays.

k is for kidsREAD. :-)

Monday, April 09, 2007

How to Make Pinatas

Date: 7 April 2007
Volunteers: Dh, A, YJ, K, myself
Children: 7/10 (C, Z, A) S withdraw from the program

The class has become smaller with 10 children now instead of 9. Three of the munchkins were absent Z ("got something on" as she was attending the 12.30 pm mathematics tuition class next door), C (chicken pox) and A (did not turn up). The volunteer-student ratio now is very good with 5 volunteers to 10 children. Almost 2:1. Hmmmm... I should start thinking of doing more small-group work with the volunteers and children. :-)

An NIE trainee was with us (Au) who dropped by to film some of our activities during the class. It was related to her NIE project on kidsREAD though I did not have time to ask how about the details of her research except for her to send us a copy of the video.

The feedback from Au was that the class was well-behaved. That was certainly good to hear. :-) Though one or two of the girls are very outspoken and familiar to the point of being highly opinionated about the stories and how the class was conducted. E.g. if there were no games they would pout and comment negatively about the lack of such "fun" activities. Oh well, you cannot please everyone....hahah..

I read with the class as a big group another Judy Ling book on How to Make Pinatas (they are pronounced as "Pin-yah-ta"). Did not take any pictures of the book but it is also an attractive book which can be combined into a craft lesson if time permits. After that, we had small-group reading again this time with me tutoring J one-to-one. She is still not too consistent in her reading and word recognition but I think I found out what some of the problems were. Her eyes are not focussing on the words in a book in sequence and hence sometimes read words that were totally not related to what was in print. I am getting her to track the words using her fingers and for her eyes to track her fingers to the words. Let's see if this works out next week as I will work with her again.

In the meantime, have a great week one and all and mental note to myself to get a 2IC for older class as I will need to build up the capabilities of our talented and warm-hearted volunteers.

K is for kidsREAD!

The Pine and the Willow

Date: 31 March 2007 (Saturday)

This post is 2 weeks after the event so forgive me for not updating the volunteer and children roll-call.

I used back the old format which was reading with/to the whole class using another of Judy Ling's big print and picture books titled, "The Pine and the Willow." The book was about the fates of two trees, the winding willow vs the straight and prideful pine. It tells the story of how the Pine despite being the better looking tree, suffers the fact that one would expect... To be made into furniture while the crooked willow continue to be left in the forest to provide fun and entertainment for people who came upon it.

The story is good for us to teach children on appreciating one's qualities even if one is not "beautiful/handsome" in the conventional sense. I asked the children for their feedback after the story and only slightly less than half enjoyed it. Ah well! :-)

We broke up into small group reading and I took R and J so that I could monitor their progress. R is okay, he is just mainly share and has a slight speech pronunication issue which I believe can be corrected over time as his tongue and palate develops. J on the other hand needs more individualised coaching but I noted some slight improvements after I realise her eyes jump over the words when reading so I need to train her to use her finger to follow the words and train her eye to look at where the fingers are pointing.

A good session as it went smoothly and the sense of satisfaction from teaching kidsREAD never ceases to amaze me. The other development is Az's elder sister asking me to help her in her picture composition. So now I set aside 1/2 an hour after the 1-hour kidsREAD class to coach Az's sister in english homework.

More in the next post.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Group Reading

Date: 24 March 2007
Children: 9/11 (S and Az absent)
Volunteers: Dh, YJ, K, A & myself

I was suffering from a bout of cold and was sneezing today and hence decided against spreading my germs to the children by the regular story reading session. Instead, we broke up into groups after attendance taking. To make things more interesting, I told the children to "chope" or select their favourite volunteer to see which of the children will flock to which volunteer.

It was interesting to see that the girls went for K and some for A and YJ. At their age of 7-8 the girls preferred female volunteers while the boys were indifferent. After getting the volunteers adn children sorted out into groups, I took on one of the boys R while Dh took on YZ.

As this was the first time that I taught R on a one-to-one basis. I broke the ice with him by getting him to share about where he stayed, which school he went to and who brought him to kidsREAD class every Saturday.

During story reading sessions, R was mostly quiet as he was very shy. I was initially concerned about whether he could follow the class but this session made me realise that his initial non-participating was more due to shyness than any learning disability. I got him started on one of the books, I realised his reading ability was reasonable for a 7 year old and he could generally understand what I was saying.

Some of the girls who were advanced readers raced through 6-7 books with their volunteers! I did not know whether they were bluffing me when they told me they read so many books but I would not be surprised as some of the girls' reading abilities exceeded their age requirement.

We wrapped up the session with hangman and the children are by now very familiar with the concept of vowels and letters. I realised however that some of them still do not know how to tell time and they could be a topic to explore for the younger children.

It was an interesting session although my efficiency was affected somewhat by the cold bug.

Till the next session on 31 March 2007.

Friday, March 16, 2007

I'm Hungry

Date: 10 March 2007
Volunteers: K, YJ, D and Myself
Class: 10/11 (S absent)

The big books were available this week and I read to the children "I'm Hungry" by Judy Ling. This is an interesting book as it allowed me to interact with the children asking them questions about who knows how to cook food, who helps their mothers in the kitchen and about the types of ingredients were mentioned in the book.

Attendance was reasonable given that the March school holidays had started so most of the children were back with the exception of one of them.

For the volunteer attendance, I was again fortunate to have D, YJ, K and myself to do the group reading session. After that, we had 5 minutes of "Simple Simon" game before ending the lesson.

The more I teach at kidsREAD, the more I will miss the children if I cannot make it for any of the sessions. The cute children in my class really grows on me...hahah...

As the teaching advertisements in MOE proclaim, teaching is about moulding lives.

I hope to be a competent potter. There are so many hidden talents in my class.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Spelling Bee

Date: 3 March 2007
Volunteers: K, YJ, A and Myself
Class: 8/11 (C, J, LM absent)

The first drawer of the rickety old steel cabinet storing our kidsREAD books got stuck and hence I was unable to access the large print Judy Ling books for the group reading.

I started the class with spelling as a warm-up activity as some of the children had not arrived yet at 11.30 a.m. We did team-spelling for a while and then went straight into small group reading of 4 groups each. K took the 2 boys (S, R), A taught HL and Z, YJ taught YZ and A while I took S and J. (Sorry, abbreviations are used for the childrens' names as a safety precaution. We wouldn't want strangers turning up at our centre and looking for specific children. As we all know, the net can be dangerous!)

The books used were part of the 48 books identified by NLB as those recommended to be used in the kidsREAD classes. Some titles included, "If You Give a Pig a Pancake" (Laura Numeroff), "That's What Friends Are For" and so on.

The children are improving a bit. Even I could detect a slight improvement in J as she tries to read more words. I would have to be more deliberate in my group reading allocations as I learnt during the kidsREAD training by NLB later on the day about trying to provide some consistency in the children's kidsREAD volunteer so that the environment is less volatile for them. Children who may not have a stable family environment would benefit for having the same volunteers teaching them most days. This would also help in my getting feedback from the tutors about the children's performance periodically. More about the training in another post.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Hairy Scary Spider

Date: 10 February 2007
Class: 9/11
Volunteers: 5/5

This was the first kidsREAD classroom session for me this year as I had other commitments on the previous two Saturdays and it was delightful to see the class again!

The class has suffered some slight attrition since our pre-test and now we have eleven children in the class. Six of my last year's batch (J, Z, C, S, LM, YZ) from Primary 1 and now with me while I have five new children (JT, R, A, MS, HL) making a total of eleven.

As some of the children were new and in Primary 1, I decided to use one of Judy Ling's big books titled, "Hairy Scary Spider" for the class. The story reading segment in part 1 is usually how I warm up the class to the reading activities for the 1-hour session. The room's ventilation was not very good although there was air conditioning and I found myself perspiring profusely while reading to the children. One of the girls, Z was curious as to why I was sweating and I jokingly told her that it was "hard work" teaching them...*hahah*... :-)

The turnout for volunteers was fantastic as I had (D, K, YJ, A) to help me for the class when I broke the class up into smaller groups for the small group reading session. There will be some difference in reading proficiencies in this class as the primary 2 children are already one year ahead of the primary 1s. In addition, some of my primary 2 children were quite advanced readers who could be challenged with more interesting reading assignments.

After the group reading, I did a simple word game where there were rows and columns of letters all jumbled up in a six by six table and the class competed in two groups to see who could guess the most number of words either horizontally, vertically or diagonally in the table.

I see the plan forward is to develop group reading activities that involve all the children and then to have smaller group reading by abilities to help coach the children who need more help.

To cap off the session, the children were given some souvenir bags sponsored by MHA/CNB with the anti-drug message. They were given each 1 knapsack, 1 water bottle, card-case and file case plus a $5 Popular Voucher as well as some brochures on "Saying No to Drugs." I thought the message was more suitable for older children but the souvenirs were useful. A pity volunteers did not get anything. I guess that is the price of volunteering... Knowing that you have made a difference is reward enough.

Our kidsREAD session will take a break during the Lunar New Year Holidays and resume on 24 February Saturday.

Here's wishing all my fellow volunteers and CDAC HQ staff,


Monday, January 22, 2007

kidsREAD 2007: Pre-Test

Date: 20 January 2007

kidsREAD has officially restarted for 2007 with us conducting the pre-test for assessing the children's reading age. This helps us assess the reading level for the children so that we can group them into classes condusive for their development needs.

We have about twenty plus children in the programme this year which is slightly less than less year. This is normal because a number of parents learn about the program from other parents or when they drop by the student service centre to use the library or attend the tuition programmes.

Most of my original class of nine from last year are still in this year's class as they were aged 7 then and have become 1 year older at 8 this year. The kidsREAD program caters for children aged from 4 to 8 and hence Primary 2 is the last year for most students.

It was refreshing to see them again and their energy and enthusiasm certainly made the morning enjoyable for me as I conducted the pre-test. The pre-test is a written test where the children are required to circle the correct stimulus word that I read out in the following sequence:

  1. Stimulus word e.g. walk
  2. Sentence e.g. Can you walk over to the store now?
  3. Stimulus word e.g. walk
  4. Choices: work talk walk wok
It reminded me of listening comprehension but tested the child's understanding and recognition of words. The older children (primary 2) breezed through the test though the younger ones (primary 1) took a bit longer since they were 1 year behind the older children.

The class looks to be promising as I have some of my very good readers with me for the second year plus some of the younger children that I need to help bring up to speed. I have to remind myself that this is not an academic programme and the main objective is to inculcate in the children a life-long love for reading and not just reading to score "A"s in their English (though that is a good by-product of this programme!). :-)

I am also thankful that many of last year's volunteers are continuing for another year and we even have new volunteers coming on board. This will give the programme the foundation to touch more lives of the children in our community for better.

kidsREAD 2007 - Ladies and Gentlemen, please start your engines! *vrooom*!!!!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Beginnings: KidsREAD 2007

Our kidsREAD program will be starting on 20 January 2007 with a pre-test for the children whose parents have enrolled them in our program for 2007.

Currently we have 17 applicants and it looks like we will have 3 classes this year instead of 4 last year. I am hopeful that we will have a better student-volunteer ratio this year so that we can try more innovative programs and get some 1-to-1 coaching to some of the students whose foundation in English is weak.

My aspirations for kidsREAD 2007 at Jurong Student Service Centre:

  1. To conduct monthly story telling sessions for combined classes.
  2. To measure the child's progress through the kidsREAD program is a more structured manner.
  3. To be patient with the children and to inject enthusiasm and fun into reading.

Let's see how the program turns out this year. I am happy that there could be new (young and enthusiastic) volunteers joining us this year and hope that the existing experienced volunteers (who are young at heart and equally enthusiastic!) would continue on as that would make it a more dynamic and sustainable program.

KidsREAD 2007, here we go. :-)