Like many boys their age, the 11- to 19-year-old residents of the Muhammadiyah Welfare Home (MWH) probably prefer playing football or basketball to reading.
But that might change with the launch of a new reading programme, Dribbles (Daily Reading & Interest-Based Literacy activities), at the home for disadvantaged boys, coinciding with the reopening of the its newly renovated library.
Under the pilot project, which is expected to last three to six months, 20 boys will take part in simple literacy exercises led every day by volunteers and staff, and be introduced to reading materials.
They will get points for activities like flash card games testing their ability to read and understand vocabulary word lists.
Being able to read and write are core skills that will make it easier for them to pursue lifelong learning.
MR ZAINAL SAPARI, NTUC assistant secretary-general
These can be exchanged for small prizes like soft drinks or toys, and even sports shoes and jerseys.
Through this programme, staff will also be able to find out which boys need extra help with reading.
The idea to renovate the library came from a group of 28 volunteers in the community outreach arm of the School of Business and Accountancy at Ngee Ann Polytechnic.
Having secured $10,000 for a community project from the SG50 fund, they decided to partner MWH and spent three days redecorating the library. They painted a sports-themed mural, installed air-conditioners, replaced furniture and bought books that would be more appealing to the boys.
The library used to have over 300 donated books, including encyclopaedias and novels. But many were tough to read for the boys, and there were only three sports magazines that were especially well-thumbed. Noticing this, the students bought 60 second-hand books, including sports magazines and comics, and collected about 150 books on practical topics like public speaking from their school.
The library, which measures about 25 sq m, is open to the 63 residents.
NTUC assistant secretary-general Zainal Sapari, who was the guest of honour at the launch, applauded MWH's move to develop reading skills. He said: "Being able to read and write are core skills that will make it easier for them to pursue lifelong learning."
A 13-year-old resident at MWH said he was looking forward to digging into the books and now had more reason to do so. "I want to read more about sports, especially football, and hopefully win some sports shoes," he said.