ST Causes Week 2019: Making books come alive for young children

Volunteer Gelien Chia reading to children in Calvary Community Care's literacy support programme Story Lab, where kids attend free weekly reading sessions in small group settings. PHOTO: CALVARY COMMUNITY CARE
Volunteer Gelien Chia reading to children in Calvary Community Care's literacy support programme Story Lab, where kids attend free weekly reading sessions in small group settings. PHOTO: CALVARY COMMUNITY CARE

Seven-year-old Yin Le used to struggle with reading in English.

Her mother, Ms Wendy Kang, fretted as her own command of English was not strong, and her pronunciation was sometimes inaccurate when she read to her daughter.

In January, Yin Le began attending weekly Story Lab reading sessions at Potong Pasir Community Club, where volunteers read to young children in small group settings or guide them to read on their own. Now, she loves reading English books, and will often regale her mother with the tales she has read.

"Through the sessions, Yin Le has gained confidence in reading English books, and looks forward to each session," said Ms Kang in Mandarin. The 41-year-old works at a logistics firm.

The 45-minute sessions run weekly on Monday nights from 7.30pm, with breaks during the June and December school holidays. They are free and open to all children aged three to eight.

With a smaller group of children, volunteers are able to actively engage the children individually during the story, said Mrs Eunice Goh, programme manager for children programmes at social service agency Calvary Community Care (C3).

C3 has run Story Lab (Literacy Awareness Builders), a literacy support programme, since 2015.

"Story Lab (aims to) bring the experience of 'bedtime stories' into the community so that children, especially those from low-income or non-English-speaking homes, can enjoy the experience and benefits," said Mrs Goh.

It also hopes to cultivate a habit of reading for pleasure in the children, she added. Over 200 children have participated since the programme began, and 25 to 30 come every week for each session before they are split up into smaller groups.

 
 
 

Volunteers, such as Ms Nisha Kaur Saini, 22, a third-year business student at the Singapore Management University, help bring the books to life and introduce the joy of reading.

Ms Nisha, a volunteer since March, said of the children: "They get so excited and express it in their own body language, and are so creative in our interactions when we discuss the stories."

To volunteer, donate or find out more, visit calvary.sg. To partner C3 in this community service, contact Eunice Goh via e-mail at eunicegoh@calvary.org.sg

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 17, 2019, with the headline 'Making books come alive for young children'. Subscribe