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!