We Should Encourage Reading In School

The National Library Board (NLB) recently launched the National Reading Movement, a 5-year comapaign which kicked off with a 2 month pledging drive to encourage all to Read More, Read Widely and Read Together. A few days ago, my boys brought home from school a sheet of paper. In it, parents were urged to attach a picture of us reading together and write a short reflection on reading as a family.

My boys go to a neighbourhood school and apart from the sheet of paper that they brought home, the school also initiated a program where recommended books from the library will be wheeled to the canteen during recess time. Students are encouraged to read during recess time.

It is good that the school is supporting this nation wide initiative to encourage students to read. But does the school really expect the kids to be reading during recess time? I know my kids won’t because they will be too busy gobbling down their food so that they can have time to play in the field.

My boys love to read and to be read to. My 6 year old started reading not too long ago. My elder boy is an avid reader and he told me that he had to hide his story book under his desk during lessons so that the teacher won’t find out. I suspect he rushes through his work most of the time so that he gets to read his book. I realised I might have a reading problem but I guess it’s a happy problem.

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Reading is an important skill for learning and a foundation for higher learning for any subjects, not just Maths and Science. It opens up a world of knowledge and imagination. Children should read not just textbooks or worksheets. They should read for pleasure and to gain knowledge in whatever topics that interest them.

One has to agree that in Singapore, a child is at the losing end if he doesn’t know how to read by the time he enters Primary school. How can he follow instructions on worksheets and solve maths problem sums when he can’t read? It is ironic that despite being such an important skill for learning, reading hasn’t been made part of the school curriculum or made compulsory in school.

Children who are lucky enough to have adults to read to them and are exposed to a wide variety of books since young will naturally pick up reading when they are about 6-7 years old. For those who are not so lucky, they most likely struggle with school work when they enter Primary school.

There are students in my boys’ class who have to depend on financial aid to buy food during recess time. These children do not have the luxury of owning books and having their parents read to them. Without a conducive environment at home, they need help from school to learn to read, gain proficiency in reading and hopefully inculcate a reading habit.

My boys’ school has a 10 minutes of reading time every morning before assembly, ie. if the kids arrive in school early enough. The kids get to go to the library with the class sometimes once a month, but mostly none. During recess, they are not encouraged to go to the library because the school is worried that they might disturb other classes which are having lessons. (recess time are staggered for different levels) The library is closed after school because they don’t have enough librarians to man the library. This means that students don’t have the option of going to the library while waiting for CCAs or other supplementary lessons to commence.

All these seem legitimate reasons for the school library to be grossly under utilized. I shan’t say that this is the case for all schools and I think ultimately it all boils down to the school’s ethos, whether the school believes that learning goes beyond getting good grades. It might not seem worthwhile to put in that kind of effort and resources for something that doesn’t contribute directly to the schools’ ranking and KPIs.

While I am glad that the MOE is making considerable change to the education system to encourage students to focus on their own learning instead of competing with their peers, I am skeptical that this will reduce the over-emphasis on academic results. I also have doubts that it will encourage students to focus on their own learning. Schools and students will continue to focus on what will help them get good results and consequently their choice of schools.

Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers ~ Harry S. Truman

In today’s world, knowledge is power. Learning shouldn’t stop after graduation day. Yet, I know many of us stop reading once we leave school. A local survey has shown that only 44 per cent of Singaporeans read one or more literary books in the past year. My anecdotal experience overseas tell me that many first world countries (e.g. France) have a much stronger reading culture than us.

If there is only one thing that MOE can do or fix, I think it is to strongly encourage a habit of reading in our students. I think MOE can do much to create a culture of reading among our young Singaporeans.

Allocate period to reading. Allow the students to read anything. Discuss what was read. Expand the quality and accessibility of the school libraries. Celebrate those that read and not frown on them as indulging in useless pursuits.

Doubtlessly, there is much to learn beyond books but books and the written word continue to be one of the most important sources of learning. There is so much knowledge captured in the written word and that’s what separates civilisation and primitive societies.

Nobody knows what the future holds. But we can prepare our children for the unpredictable future by equipping them with the ability to learn by themselves, to be avid readers and independent learners.

It might be too simplistic, but reading could help that child in my boy’s class who doesn’t have enough money to buy lunch in school and bridge the gap between the haves and the have-nots.

A book a week makes 52 a year. If we only get a little smarter after every book, we will be a whole lot smarter after a year. Extrapolate the results. To me, that’s what lifelong learning is all about.

 
 

2

My Silly Boy

My 6 year old is a funny guy.
He has an infectious laughter and has his way of charming strangers with his smile.
He isn’t fazed by who’s nice and who’s not and he doesn’t sweat the small stuff.
like that day when a whole bunch of little guys “attacked” him in the school field
he took them down one by one, as he proudly put it
and next day had his own group of little friends fight back.
He plays fighting, the kind that bothers his elder brother.

A tough guy he might seem
He’s also the boy who will write you a note and surprise you with a handmade gift.

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He loves silly books and stories of Mr Men tickle him.
Asterix and Obelix are his favourite bedtime stories.
And from the older boys at home, he had learned to appreciate the subtle jokes of the 2 Gauls
He think that it is funny that Obelix thinks that Helvetia is FLAT
and he will say that peppered with gestures and all
It makes you wonder who’s funnier, Obelix or him

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Apart from Lego and ipad, trash is his next favourite plaything
He gathered a pile of them and told me they were gifts for my birthday and for Mother’s Day
In those boxes where my Thai mangoes, tea set, cookies and miscellaneous used to lie
I found doodles, love notes, paper puppets, heart shaped bookmarks, a silly book he wrote and more silly stuffs he made

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During our last holiday, he discovered that coffee stirrers made good toys.
I bought him a pack of ice cream sticks and he had many hours of fun making what he called ‘stick bombs’

In case you are as clueless as me
The challenge is to make the most intricate ‘stick bombs’ (no glue used) and watch them ‘explode’ when they hit the ground

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During our recent DIY project, he kept one of the left over wooden block, doodled some logos on it and made a game out of it.

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Sometime he will take his pile of trash and turn them into castles and forts for his Lego people

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Other times, he would churn out a TV complete with remote control

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On days when he feels inspired, he would play me a tune or 2 on his ukulele

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His brother and him made a little something for their Dad on Father’s Day
They don’t have a name for it.
Some scraps they spent a couple of hours putting together

They had LED lights saved from his Dad’s fallen drone
Some Arduino stuff they brought home from school and have them controlled by a computer program

They only managed to automate half of this dancing light thingy.
So the little brother had to be the manual controller controlling the other half
pushing 2 ends of a row of alkaline batteries that were tucked away from sight to make the dancing lights dance

Dad was of course exhilarated to receive the mobile disco along with
what looked like a jet plane that had crashed, all dancing to their favourite dance music.

 
 
This post was inspired by Auntie’s Pam Carnival Games who made some really cool carnival games using recycled materials!

2

Race Against Cancer

IMG_3537Last Sunday my husband and I ran with some of the dearest people in our lives for Singtel Race Against Cancer. We did the 15km run and it was our 3rd time running in this event. Last year the event was cancelled due to haze, the organizer announced that the finisher medals would still be given out to participants but we didn’t collect ours because it wasn’t the medals that made us join the event.

This was the event that started me on running for other events 4 years ago and it was one of the event that we continue to sign up every year (except for the year that we were out of the country).

It wasn’t the best organized running event. The flag off time at 7.15am was a tad late for a 15km run and I dislike routes that makes us go in loops. However we continued to sign up because we know that a huge part of the registration fee goes to raising funds for cancer patients.

My Dad was diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2012 and had half of his stomach removed. It’s been 4 years now and these days he wakes up at 5 in the morning to go cycling and brisk walking. He watches what he eats and he exercises everyday. Many of the people we know who suffer from cancer haven’t been so lucky and it upsets me to learn when yet another someone falls prey or succumbs to this dreadful illness.

This year’s run was a special one because I had my siblings to join us in the run. Unlike my brother who is a fitness buff and running 15km was a piece of cake, both my sisters weren’t seasoned runners. Like many people, they were active in sports in their younger years but are nowhere close to completing a 15km run these days. One of them did a few marathons when she was younger but is now a mother who is still breastfeeding and chasing after another active preschooler. She barely has time to rest, what more train for the run. Signing up for the event did make her go for a few runs, albeit nothing more than 3km. Amazingly, she managed to complete the 15km on Sunday, coming in just about the same time as me. I guess she still has it in her, being the ‘natural’ runner in the family.

My littlest sister had just returned from a 2 month overseas stint a few days before the run and was down with a persistent flu. She turned up on Sunday still unsure whether she should run and was prepared to rip off her race tag half way through if she decided to quit the race. Alas, she completed the race below 2 hours despite being sick!

As for myself, I was nursing an old injury and haven’t been running for the past month. I had thoughts of pulling out as I was still limping 2 weeks ago.

Let’s just say that we were all very ill prepared for the run but we all turned up on Sunday hoping that we could still give it our best shot.

As it turned out, we completed what we set out to do. Whether it was sheer foolhardiness or pure endurance, we completed the 15km. For the first time, the kids were there to cheer us on for the last 50m of the race. They were eager to watch us sprint to the finishing line. They rode their bikes, cheered and chased us to the finishing line. It was all so exhausting and fun.

The human body again proved its resilience and toughness. That one can most likely do it if one will it. And it is hard to imagine what cancer patients have to go through for their bodies to finally shut down and succumb to the demon. And it is this knowledge that makes cancer survivors like this one truly a warrior.

And we will continue to run …
To honor those who had fought.
To celebrate those who had won.
To remember those who had lost.
To cheer those who are still fighting.
 
 
Head over to Singtel Race Against Cancer for more inspiring stories.
You can also make a donation here.
Hope to see you next year for the run!

 
 

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