It's time to bookmark time to read

National Reading Movement kicks off with plans to make books more accessible to office workers and the elderly

A book vending machine featuring local literature at the National Museum of Singapore, one of two unveiled by bookstore BooksActually yesterday. The other machine is at the Singapore Visitor Centre in Orchard Road, and a third will be installed at Go
A book vending machine featuring local literature at the National Museum of Singapore, one of two unveiled by bookstore BooksActually yesterday. The other machine is at the Singapore Visitor Centre in Orchard Road, and a third will be installed at Goodman Arts Centre later this month.ST PHOTO: MARCUS TAN

Ready, get set, read.

The National Reading Movement is up and running, as the National Library Board (NLB) goes all out to nurture the love of reading.

The five-year initiative includes plans to take books to people, such as to the offices of time-strapped adults, and to community spaces within easy reach of the elderly.

Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim yesterday flagged off the movement by launching a campaign for people to pledge to "read more, read widely and read together" in the two months leading up to Singapore's first National Reading Day on July 30.

Retired driver Roland Tan, a regular library user, has already pledged to set aside some time for reading.

"I usually go to the library to read newspapers, but maybe now I should read some fiction too. My granddaughter is always talking about Harry Potter," said the 64-year-old with a laugh.

  • Wide range of events

  • The National Library Board's annual Read! Fest is back for its third edition, with a series of programmes that run until July 30 to whet an appetite for stories in all forms, from books to songs. Here are some events to look forward to:

    The rewards and regrets in restagings: Playwrights talk

    Playwrights Joel Tan, Jean Tay and Huzir Sulaiman, with Nessa Anwar as moderator, discuss the inner workings of the rehearsal room and talk about tackling restagings of their works.

    WHERE: Multi-purpose room, Central Public Library WHEN: Today, 3pm ADMISSION: Free

    Singer-songwriter sharing with: Jawn

    Up-and-coming folk singer-songwriter Jonathan Chan, better known as Jawn, gets intimate in this session, offering a glimpse into his song-writing process.

    WHERE: Square Garden, Central Public Library WHEN: Today, 3pm ADMISSION: Free

    Publishing adventures: It's all in the family!

    Meet the parent-child teams behind The Big Red Dot by Calvin Soh and his son Dylan, and the Danger Dan series by mother-and-daughter duo Monica Lim and Lesley-Anne Tan to find out how they work together on their books, and how these parents sparked their children's interest in reading and writing.

    WHERE: Programme Zone, Level 2, Bishan Public Library WHEN: July 2, 3.30pm ADMISSION: Free. Register at library e-kiosks or

    Faring well: A poetic excursion

    Join poets Christine Chia, Loh Guan Liang, Ow Yeong Wai Kit, Eugenia Tan and Wong Su Ann for a poetry session that takes people in and out of private worlds built on their thoughts and observations.

    WHERE: Pod, Level 16, National Library Building WHEN: July 2, 7pm ADMISSION: Free. Register at library e-kiosks or

He was browsing the shelves at the National Library Building, where about 200 people, including writers and publishers, had gathered for the launch of the reading movement.

The push to get more people to read comes amid survey results that paint a worrying picture of reading habits here. Only 44 per cent of respondents in a year-long National Arts Council survey that ended last year had read at least one "literary book".

Dr Yaacob said that everyone has a part to play in making the reading movement a truly national one.

The Straits Times is chipping in with its askST@NLB talks held on the last Friday of every month at library@orchard.

These sessions feature the paper's seasoned journalists giving their take on issues of the day.

All 120 places for the first talk last week by Invest editor and senior correspondent Lorna Tan were snapped up. Deputy business editor Aaron Low is up next. He will speak about financial planning for families in his talk on June 24.

Adults who struggle to find time for reading amid work commitments are among the NLB's key targets. It will, for instance, partner firms to curate reading materials tailored to these companies, including articles on industry trends.

And it hopes to get these adults reading on the move too.

Dr Yaacob said: "Dedicating some time to read in our week can go a long way, and now with e-books and audiobooks, reading on the go is a lot easier."

Later this year, a library-themed MRT train will be launched, allowing commuters to scan QR codes to download recommended e-books, among other things.

The minister also encouraged readers to look beyond the books and genres that they are familiar with, and to read with other people to glean new perspectives.

"The same book can mean many different things to many different people. I can attest to this because my wife and I read the same book and come up with different conclusions," he said to laughter.

The National Reading Day next month will see a slew of events, including pop-up reading activities and the final day of a week-long Read For Books drive, where one book will be donated to beneficiaries for every 10 people who spend 15 minutes reading.

• Members of the public can make their pledge to read at

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 04, 2016, with the headline 'It's time to bookmark time to read'. Print Edition | Subscribe