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!