Make reading a part of children's lives

A woman and a group of children reading books at Bishan public library.
A woman and a group of children reading books at Bishan public library. PHOTO: ST FILE

It is heartening to learn that the National Library Board (NLB) is taking steps to woo readers among the working population and senior citizens ("Big push to kindle love of reading"; Tuesday).

More can also be done to promote the love of reading from a young age. Once the reading habit is instilled in children, it naturally becomes a part of life.

Perhaps the NLB could consider a pre-school version of the Read@Work programme, targeting especially pre-schools and kindergartens with a higher proportion of children from low-income families.

Low-income families on help schemes run by organisations such as the Chinese Development Assistance Council, Mendaki, Singapore Indian Development Association and the Eurasian Association can also be encouraged to take their children to the library.

Perhaps some award - in cash or in kind - can be given to parents who commit to taking their children to the library for a certain number of times or whose children have read a certain number of library books.

Ideally, parents should be the ones to inculcate the love of reading in their children.

But it would be difficult for parents to encourage reading if they themselves do not set an example.

When children see the pleasure their parents take in reading, their curiosity would be piqued and they would be inspired to follow suit.

Unfortunately, reading for pleasure often takes a back seat to more practical things in life.

For students, this means that enrichment and tuition classes - not to mention social media - take precedence over reading.

Hopefully, with the move towards less emphasis on grades, children will have more time to read.

Another item on my wish list is for the NLB to waive the charges for book reservations.

Often, books that I wish to read are available only in selected libraries and a reservation would need to be placed at my nearest library, which incurs a small charge.

To make it even more convenient for readers, perhaps NLB could also deposit reserved books at other common areas, such as POPStations.

As with all habits, embarking on reading may be an uphill task at the beginning, but becomes ingrained with practice.

Maria Loh Mun Foong (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 15, 2016, with the headline 'Make reading a part of children's lives'. Print Edition | Subscribe