Telling tales in the three mother tongues

Storytelling in the mother tongues is part of the festival, themed Retracing Our Roots, on till Nov 20.
Storytelling in the mother tongues is part of the festival, themed Retracing Our Roots, on till Nov 20.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Storytelling session is part of Mother Tongue Language Reading Festival organised by NLB

Children attending a special event at the Jurong Regional Library yesterday heard the same story told three times - but each time it sounded fresh.

Three librarians told their audience of more than 50 a traditional Japanese folktale, Kasa Jizo - each telling it separately in Mandarin, Malay and Tamil, Singapore's three vernacular languages.

The session was part of the Mother Tongue Language Reading Festival, organised by the National Library Board (NLB) to encourage reading in the mother tongues among all age groups.

The festival, which was first held in 2014, goes on until Nov 20.

Themed Retracing Our Roots, there are 59 programmes at public libraries across the island.

Besides reading and storytelling events, there are dramatisation sessions, film screenings, talks by authors, and craft workshops.

NLB also worked with schools, authors and theatre groups to bring the festival to the community.

This year, 35 of the programmes cater to adults, in line with the National Reading Movement's focus to promote reading among adults and seniors.

For instance, filmmakers M. Raihan Halim and Sufyan Sam'an will share their thoughts on Malay language cinema in Singapore, and the Xin Sheng Poets' Society is conducting a Chinese poetry singing session.

The public can also watch actors improvise and dramatise a story in Mandarin in just five minutes and learn improvisation from them .

Parents can also pick up tips on storytelling and reading to their their children from librarians.

Madam Chin Paik Chuen, who chanced upon the festival yesterday with her six-year-old daughter, said it was good for kids to learn their mother tongue and heritage.

"We speak mainly English at home and I try to have simple conversations with my daughter in Mandarin to prepare for school," said Madam Chin, 39, who is unemployed. "My daughter enjoyed the cultural dance performances and the puppet storytelling about sea creatures."

The public can sign up for the festival's programmes at library eKiosks, or on www.nlb.gov.sg/golibrary.

The programmes are free.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 12, 2016, with the headline 'Telling tales in the three mother tongues'. Print Edition | Subscribe