Reading scheme for kids gets community support

Bless founder Francesca Wah (second from left) reading stories to some of the children in the scheme. She is joined by (from left) Mayor of South West District Low Yen Ling, NUS student volunteer Nurul Khairiah Suhaimi and adviser to Clementi Grassro
Bless founder Francesca Wah (second from left) reading stories to some of the children in the scheme. She is joined by (from left) Mayor of South West District Low Yen Ling, NUS student volunteer Nurul Khairiah Suhaimi and adviser to Clementi Grassroots Organisations Arthur Fong.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

South West CDC to fund scheme with $400 a child

IT WAS launched only two months ago but in that time, a reading programme for children from low- income families in the South West district has already helped 120 children.

Yesterday, Shining Star Reads @ South West received a major boost as South West Community Development Council (CDC) came on board to fund it.

So far, the pilot scheme has been paid for by members of the voluntary welfare organisation that set it up - Bringing Love to Every Single Soul (Bless). It estimates that the cost of running the programme is about $320 per pupil, but the CDC will now fund each child $400 - enough to support him on the programme for a year.

LONG-TERM BENEFITS

Our mission is not solely to help the community, but rather to provide a scaffold that helps the community to help themselves. I am heartened to see residents joining us as volunteers to help children in their own community.

- Bless founder and primary school teacher Francesca Wah

Bless founder and primary school teacher Francesca Wah marked the occasion yesterday by reading stories to some of the scheme's beneficiaries. She was joined by Mayor of South West District Low Yen Ling and adviser to Clementi Grassroots Organisations Arthur Fong at the Casa Clementi Residents' Committee Centre.

Ms Wah, 24, set up Bless just over a year ago. She came up with the idea just before graduating from the National University of Singapore (NUS) after noticing the limitations of existing community libraries and reading programmes.

The children her programme targets often have trouble attending reading programmes that are not held in a convenient location as many have working parents who lack the time to take them.

She and her friends at the NUS and National Institute of Education decided to take the reading programme to the children's homes.

On a fortnightly basis, volunteers visit them and take them to the void deck, where they read aloud together. The youngsters receive activity books based on the stories and can also borrow other books from a mobile library before the volunteers take them home. The programme aims to encourage positive social behaviour and the stories teach values such as compassion for the community.

"Our mission is not solely to help the community, but rather to provide a scaffold that helps the community to help themselves," said Miss Wah. "I am heartened to see residents joining us as volunteers to help children in their own community."

For Miss Wah, her reward comes when she sees beneficiaries like Travis Tan. "I like it," said the eight-year-old. "It's fun to read together."

rkurohi@sph.com.sg

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 18, 2015, with the headline 'Reading scheme for kids gets community support'. Print Edition | Subscribe