Learning to dream like Mr Lee

Mr Tan telling children in a K2 class, at the PAP Community Foundation (PCF) Sparkletots Preschool in Radin Mas yesterday, stories from What's Inside The Red Box. The book comes with pages for young readers to fill in their own hopes and dreams.
Mr Tan telling children in a K2 class, at the PAP Community Foundation (PCF) Sparkletots Preschool in Radin Mas yesterday, stories from What's Inside The Red Box. The book comes with pages for young readers to fill in their own hopes and dreams.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

Book on Mr Lee's red box aims to inspire kids to follow founding PM in dreaming big

A group of six-year-olds from a preschool were yesterday treated to a special storytelling session - the story was about a red box and the storyteller, Minister of State (Manpower and Prime Minister's Office) Sam Tan.

He told the children about the little red box, which symbolised founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew's dedication and outsized ambitions for the little red dot.

Mr Tan read from What's Inside The Red Box, an illustrated children's book, to a K2 class at the PAP Community Foundation (PCF) Sparkletots Preschool in Radin Mas. At the end, he told the children: "It's your turn to make your own little red box!"

First published last December by the Straits Times Press and illustrated by Phua San San, the book has sold about 10,000 copies and will be available in Chinese from next week. It comes with pages for young readers to fill in their own hopes and dreams.

One pupil, Jaeren Yab, six, announced his wish: "I want Singaporeans to be smart, to know how to grow! I also want to put my drawings in my box." Another, Claire Vong, six, said: "I want to put rainbows inside my red box!"

The reading session was one of about 100 events being held this month to commemorate the first anniversary of Mr Lee's death.

Over 700 copies of the book, sponsored by Mapletree Investments, have been distributed to all PCF kindergartens and childcare centres.

"This book distribution is our effort to spread to the younger generation ... the positive values of hard work and selflessness," said Mr Hiew Yoon Khong, group chief executive officer of Mapletree.

Mr Lee had used the red box, a briefcase, to hold papers, letters, cassette tapes and personal notes that he worked on at any one time. Its contents ranged from handwritten drafts of his memoirs to communications with foreign leaders.

Mr Tan, MP for Radin Mas, said: "You can still see that the passion of the people - their affection for him - is still very, very strong."

Mr Tan stood for election with Mr Lee in Tanjong Pagar GRC in 2006. He said of Mr Lee: "He didn't realise whether those dreams, in those days, would be able to be materialised one day. But that didn't stop him from dreaming big."

Said PCF chief executive officer Victor Bay: "We hope that the story will inspire our children, even at this young age, and ingrain in them the notion that no dream is too big if they work hard to pursue their goals."

The book is available at $16 (inclusive of GST) from major bookstores and on the Straits Times Press website at www.stpressbooks.com.sg.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 08, 2016, with the headline 'Learning to dream like Mr Lee'. Print Edition | Subscribe