NLB's reading programme reaches out to alumni

President Halimah Yacob reading a book, The Message In The Stars, to about 230 children, their parents and volunteers at the National Library in Victoria Street yesterday. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
President Halimah Yacob reading a book, The Message In The Stars, to about 230 children, their parents and volunteers at the National Library in Victoria Street yesterday. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

The National Library Board (NLB) is getting its kidsREAD alumni to come back as volunteers to read to children in its current programme.

These alumni members will use their experience as past beneficiaries to instil a love of reading among children, as NLB aims to beef up its offerings in line with the programme's 15th anniversary.

Among its new initiatives is the introduction of the kidsREAD Alumni programme in August next year, which is open to youth aged 15 and above.

Children aged between nine and 14 can join the kidsREAD Young Alumni programme.

Besides reading to the children, they will conduct library tours, plan holiday programmes and make book recommendations.

More than 50,000 children have benefited from kidsREAD since it was launched in 2004.

The volunteer-run programme is targeted at children aged four to eight from lower-income families.

Today, there are 176 kidsREAD clubs in places such as schools, kindergartens and community clubs, with more than 900 volunteers across Singapore.

At kidsREAD's anniversary event yesterday at the National Library Building, President Halimah Yacob highlighted the role volunteers play in cultivating good reading habits among children from less-privileged families.

"The early years are crucial for the development of young children, and exposure to language is an important foundation for children in their subsequent learning… The importance of reading cannot be overemphasised in young children."

NLB recently launched an at-home booklet and postcards to help parents support their child's reading journey at home.

The programme has also revised its curriculum to introduce Steam (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) concepts to children through hands-on activities.

The President’s Challenge will partner NLB, Youth Corps Singapore and the Early Childhood Development Agency to pilot a new reading programme designed for children aged one to four in the first half of next year.

For kidsREAD's anniversary, NLB also collaborated with Scholastic to produce a commemorative storybook titled The Message In The Stars, written by Singaporean author Shekinah Linn.

Polytechnic student Cheong Yee Rui, 18, who was in the kidsREAD programme for two years, has been volunteering weekly since 2015.

"I benefited a lot from kidsREAD when I was younger, so now, other children can follow in my footsteps and benefit just like I have, to become more expressive," she said.

At the event, Madam Halimah presented awards to three volunteers who have been with kidsREAD since its inauguration and the four longest-running kidsREAD clubs.

Retiree Grace Chng, 70, who used to work in a bank, and husband Jimmy Ho, 76, a former school principal, have volunteered at the Chinese Development Assistance Council in Redhill since the start of the programme.

The first batch of children they read to in kidsREAD is now in university.

The article has been edited for clarity.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 10, 2019, with the headline 'NLB's reading programme reaches out to alumni'. Print Edition | Subscribe