Book for kids with different needs

(From left) Ms Lee Seow Ser, Ms Hidayah Amin and Ms Tan Ai Khim worked together on Hang Nadim And The Garfish. The book is part of a project that aims to nurture empathy and compassion in children.
(From left) Ms Lee Seow Ser, Ms Hidayah Amin and Ms Tan Ai Khim worked together on Hang Nadim And The Garfish. The book is part of a project that aims to nurture empathy and compassion in children.ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

It has font for readers with dyslexia, and Braille dots for those who are blind

Picture this: children - including those who are blind or have dyslexia - all reading the same book together.

That has become possible with the launch of a new children's book earlier this year. It has Braille dots for the blind, and text in Dyslexie font that is specially designed for readers with dyslexia.

It also has embossed elements, so readers can feel the outline of a coconut tree, for instance.

The 12-page book, titled Hang Nadim And The Garfish, was written by Ms Hidayah Amin, 43, and edited by Ms Lee Seow Ser, 42. It is part of a project called To SIR (Socially Inclusive Reads) With Love, which aims to nurture empathy and compassion in children.

Ms Hidayah is a research consultant, while Ms Lee is a freelance writer and editor.

Ms Lee, who leads the project, told The Straits Times that by letting children who are blind or have learning difficulties read the same book as other children, "we are using the book as a meaningful platform to build social inclusiveness".

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, who was previously education minister, had praised the duo for their initiative. He wrote to them in August after they sent him a copy of the book: "I feel encouraged by your team's creativity in designing the book for children with different needs, while promoting... values which we also strive to inculcate in our students."


Ms Hidayah and Ms Lee also worked on children's book Mina Meets Cambridge, but in two versions - one with Braille and the other with Dyslexie font.

The two writers were featured in The Straits Times Causes Week last year when they first converted another of Ms Hidayah's books, The Mango Tree, into Braille.

That book has won awards, including two by the National Book Development Council of Singapore. Ms Hidayah said: "We ensure the literary and artistic quality of our books. We're friends but we're also professional, and sometimes disagree over things like grammar."

Causes Week returns for the fourth time, from Dec 7 to 13. Anyone with stories or causes to share for the betterment of society can write in for these to be featured in The Straits Times. The hope is that more will be inspired to contribute to the causes.

In fact, Ms Tan Ai Khim, the illustrator of Hang Nadim, decided to contribute her talent after reading about the writers in ST last year.

Ms Tan, 34, a part-time lecturer at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, said: "I was trying to produce learning cards, using Braille to form shapes so visually impaired children can have an idea of what a heart or star looks like. So when I read about them, I thought of collaborating with them."

Another reader also contacted the writers through ST, and directed them to KHL Printing, which digitally printed the tactile and textured elements in the Hang Nadim book.

Producing such books is not cheap. It cost $6,000 to print 200 copies of Hang Nadim, for instance.

Funding for the books so far has been mostly out of the team's own pockets, with the rest by a few sponsors and donors. Meanwhile, free copies have been donated to welfare groups and schools for the blind and people with dyslexia.

Mr Lee Siang, chief executive of the Dyslexia Association of Singapore, said he supported the initiative to encourage students with dyslexia to read.

It is estimated that 23,000 people aged 16 and below here have severe dyslexia, though they have a good chance of overcoming this with early intervention.

Meanwhile, the team plans to produce more "one-for-all" titles for children of varied abilities. Said Ms Lee: "If not for the ST article and partners like Ai Khim and the printing company, we may have just continued producing solely Braille versions of books. We really need collaborators to partner us along the way, and we're thankful for them."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 09, 2015, with the headline 'Book for kids with different needs'. Print Edition | Subscribe