SINGAPORE - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong turned storyteller on Saturday morning for a National Library Board (NLB) reading programme, and showed he had a flair for it.
About 120 children paid rapt attention as he read them a story book, and even chirped like a lizard for dramatic effect.
The book, titled Go To Sleep, Gecko, is based on a Balinese folk tale about a gecko unable to fall asleep due to noisy fireflies, which it later learns to put up with.
The event marked the 10th anniversary of kidsRead, a programme initiated in 2004 by Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim in which volunteers read to young children from low-income families at reading clubs set up in schools, community centres and premises of self-help groups, to help them develop a love for reading.
Mr Lee announced that from 2015, kidsRead will be extended to include those between four and eight years old from families with a gross monthly income of up to $6,000, up from $3,500 currently, so as to reach even more children.
Since the programme started in 2004, more than 27,000 children have gone through it.
"In Singapore, we want our children to get the best possible start in life. That is why we invest heavily in education at all levels, starting at preschool. And when a child is young, one of the best gifts we can give the child is the gift of reading," Mr Lee said in a speech.
He recounted how his mother, the late Madam Kwa Geok Choo, used to read story books to him when he was young, and how he learned to read after she asked him to read a book on his own.
One of his favourite books as a child was The Story Of Ping, about a duckling on the Yangtze River, which he had read at the launch of kidsRead ten years ago, Mr Lee said.
He added that when he had children of his own, he often read to them when they were young.
On Saturday, he presented awards to the 10 longest serving volunteers, as well as the 10 longest running kidsRead clubs. More than 9,000 volunteers have participated in the programme since it began.
The event was held at the Ang Mo Kio Public Library, which is in the Ang Mo Kio GRC where Mr Lee is an MP.