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READING SPECIAL

Getting together with a book

Every month or so, groups of readers gather to discuss books they have read, turning what is usually a solitary activity into a social gathering

What: A monthly, free book club for lower-primary pupils aged seven to nine, who meet to discuss books in Malay and includes book- based activities

Where: Playhouse, Tampines Regional Library

When: Every third Friday of the month at 4pm

Info: Go to www.nlb.gov.sg/ or e-mail readsingapore@nlb.gov.sg

In the past, whenever Primary 3 pupil Mohammad Amanullah Mohammad Rafi was at bookstores or the library, he would head straight for books featuring popular characters such as Geronimo Stilton or Captain Underpants.

Unlike his twin sister Siti Aminah Mohammad Rafi, he showed no interest in picking up books in his mother tongue, Malay, and that had worried his mother, Madam Roziana Ibrahim.

To get him interested in Malay books, she enrolled her pair of eight-year-olds in Kelab Membaca Wira Pintar, a reading club for lower-primary children that discusses books in Malay.

"Previously, he wouldn't even be interested in Malay books. Now, we head to the Malay books section first and I try to make sure that at least half the books he borrows from the library are in Malay," says Madam Roziana, an English teacher at East View Secondary.

Amanullah, who like his twin speaks both English and Malay at home, is also becoming more keen on his Malay-language schoolwork, she adds. The twins are enrolled in Junyuan Primary in Tampines.

Madam Roziana says: "He's a lot more curious when he's doing assignments at home. I've noticed that he has started asking a lot more questions about Malay words."

Amanullah says: "I like it when we have the activities after the storytelling, like that time I made a lion mask."

Kelab Membaca Wira Pintar, which means Smart Heroes Reading Club, is an initiative of the National Library Board.

The first of its monthly meetings was held at Tampines Regional Library in October last year.

Each hour-long session features independent reading and storytelling by volunteers who are Malay-language teachers from Junyuan Primary. It also includes about 20 minutes of activities such as word games and craft-making that are related to the featured books, such as Mana Ulat? (Where Is The Worm?) and Aduh, Sakitnya! (Ouch, It Hurts!) by Singapore author Dhiana A.K.

The initial response to the club was overwhelming and the library received 40 applications for the 30 places.

The club has also expanded. Monthly sessions at Yishun Public Library started last month and another one will start in Serangoon Public Library this month.

National Library Board senior librarian S. Zahra Aljunied says that parents play a big role in the club.

"Parents are encouraged to be there as well, so that we can go through with them what kind of books to borrow for their children. There's a portion in the session where the parents and children read together."

One parent-child pair who have become regulars at the sessions are Nur Qistina Diyanah Razali, seven, from Junyuan Primary, and her mother, Madam Suilah Salleh, 42.

The clinic assistant says of her daughter: "She started to borrow Malay books only after she joined the club. She takes the books home and shares them with her younger sister."

Nur Qistina says: "My favourite session was that time we read a book about cats, Kucing Dengan Tikus (Cat and Mouse by Mahaya Mohd Yassin) and we learnt about all the different types like lions, cheetahs and Persian cats."


• Kelab Membaca Wira Pintar’s next meeting at Tampines Regional Library is on May 20, 4pm.

More Reading Special stories here.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 08, 2016, with the headline 'Getting together with a book'. Print Edition | Subscribe