Bilingual children's books on conservation released

Ms Chew Lee Ching released the two books during the annual book fair at the National Library building on June 5, 2022. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - During weekends and holidays, people flock to Chek Jawa Wetlands on Pulau Ubin to catch a glimpse of sea creatures like sea horses, crabs and starfishes during low tide.

But some would remove these creatures from their habitat and play with them, endangering them.

In a bid to educate young children about the importance of preserving aquatic life, Ms Chew Lee Ching released two books on Sunday (June 5) during the annual book fair at the National Library building in Bras Basah.

The books, titled Fly, Oli, Fly and Stari's Wonderful World, are part of a bilingual five-book series Baby King and Friends.

The other three books titled, Making New Friends with Baby King, Fergie Loses His Way and Hello Mr No-Tail were released last year.

On Sunday, parents and children were also invited to interactive storytelling sessions involving puppets and picture cards of both books in English and Mandarin.

Set in the local parks and wetlands to give children, aged one to five, a sense of familiarity, the stories are about the adventures of a kingfisher which lives in Gardens by the Bay and its friends whom it meets along the way, including an owl and a starfish.

"The stories provide fun ways to learn important values like perseverance, to not give up when met with obstacles. It is also to help children learn to appreciate the environment and not remove natural sea creatures from their habitats," said Ms Chew, the managing director at marketing communications firm Mandate.

The series was launched last year during the Covid-19 lockdown, but opportunities for young children to interact with their peers were limited.

"I noticed that my grandson became very shy of strangers. Now, he is less shy and more outgoing and when his parents ask him if he likes making friends, he would say 'yes'," said Ms Chew, who added that her grandson's experience was one of the motivating factors for her to start the series.

"The early childhood years are the best time to learn a language and exposing young children to bilingual stories early will help them pick up the two languages effortlessly," said Ms Chew, who is also the deputy chairman of the Promote Mandarin Council.

The books, titled Fly, Oli, Fly and Stari's Wonderful World, are part of a bilingual five-book series Baby King and Friends. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

She said that the colourful illustrations and simple words make the story easy for children to understand. It was illustrated by one of her colleagues at Mandate, John Toh.

"I consulted a language expert and showed some parents my work who gave me feedback if they thought that some of the words were too difficult for children to understand," said the grandmother of two boys, aged one and two and a half.

She added that the Lee Kuan Yew Fund For Bilingualism, which supported her in the production of the series, also provided suggestions on the stories and made sure that the language used were age-appropriate.

Ms Chew Lee Ching (left) speaking at the launch of her books at the National Library on June 5. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

When asked if she would publish the books in other languages, Ms Chew said: "When I first did the series, I meant it as an additional resource to help families with young children. If there is really an interest among parents, I would certainly consider publishing the books in other languages. But I would definitely need a lot of help from language experts."

With the series completed, Ms Chew added: "I have something in mind but it is still being fleshed out. The next series may be something that triggers children's curiosity, their sense of wanting to inquire and developing different parts of their personalities.

"I want to focus on children aged one to seven and provide them with resources to help them develop a sense of curiosity rather than just accepting what others tell them to do."

  • Both books are available at $19.90 and sold in physical and online bookstores such as Kinokuniya and Maha YuYi.

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