Yaacob: Reading books in mother tongue crucial

Former Muis president Maarof Salleh (centre) addressing other participants at the SGFuture engagement session at Bedok Public Library yesterday.
Former Muis president Maarof Salleh (centre) addressing other participants at the SGFuture engagement session at Bedok Public Library yesterday.PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN

Interest in Malay, Chinese and Tamil must go beyond exams or they may wane here

There is a risk that languages such as Malay, Chinese and Tamil might be lost here if Singaporeans do not read books in these languages.

Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim said that this was a scenario that the country should avoid.

"As much as we want to promote bilingualism, we also want to promote interest in your mother tongue beyond just examinations, and also in terms of understanding the culture, the history," he said.

He was speaking yesterday at an SGFuture engagement session, organised by the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) and the National Library Board (NLB), to gather ideas on how to encourage more people in the Malay community to read Malay books.

About 30 people, including students, teachers and Malay language authors, took part in the event at Bedok Public Library.

Participants threw up ideas such as rolling out mobile libraries at youth hangouts or introducing more genres, such as travel, adventure and history, in Malay.

The MCI announced last week in Parliament that the NLB will be ramping up efforts to get more people to read in their mother tongue languages, as part of its larger push to get more people here to read.

Efforts include doubling mother tongue language reading clubs here from five to 10 by this year.

NLB will also conduct a nationwide survey on reading habits to better understand how to promote reading.

It will also be launching a National Reading Movement, with a two-month campaign in June and July to get people to "read more, read widely and read together", as well as Singapore's first National Reading Day on July 30.

At yesterday's event, participants threw up ideas, such as rolling out mobile libraries at youth hangouts or introducing more genres, like travel, adventure and history, in Malay.

Other ideas included curating books for different age groups and developing "video trailers" to introduce good books to the public.

Muhammad Syahir, 16, a Secondary 5 student who joined the discussion, likes the last idea especially, saying that this might be useful, as young people today seem to be more attracted by the visual medium.

"If we can catch their attention on one medium, it might entice them and move them along to pick up books," he said.

Another participant, children's book author Jumaini Ariff, 37, suggested that NLB do more storytelling in Malay for young and teenage readers.

"Storytelling is a great tool that can help bring words to life. It helps to make reading exciting," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 17, 2016, with the headline 'Yaacob: Reading books in mother tongue crucial'. Print Edition | Subscribe