SINGAPORE - EtonHouse Community Fund (ECF) is recruiting volunteers under a new initiative to get underprivileged pre-school children interested in storybooks.
About 60 volunteers have been trained for its Teacher Everywhere programme so far and more than 200 have expressed interest since recruitment began in October last year.
Ms Lin Peimin, director of ECF, a non-profit entity set up by EtonHouse International Group, said that a key objective of the programme is to help children build a good foundation in reading together with their parents, as they spend more time at home during the pandemic.
The weekly face-to-face sessions started in April in Teck Ghee, Henderson and Serangoon, but have been suspended a few times amid surging Covid-19 cases.
So far, 50 children have attended the sessions. The initiative will be expanded to eight areas next year, and is working towards a team of 150 volunteers and mentors.
They are taught storytelling skills and how to engage children through conversation and interaction.
For example, through The Very Hungry Caterpillar by author Eric Carle, children are introduced to concepts like colours, numbers and patterns, or learn about the life cycle of a butterfly.
They also practise eye-hand coordination skills by using play dough to create a caterpillar.
Each child receives a storybook at the end of each session.
Ms Doreen Wong, 33, a volunteer and mentor, said it is important for children to develop an interest in books from a young age and for parents to be involved.
"It's about being exposed to words, to content, to be imaginative about different stories... That kind of exposure actually kickstarts a child's interest in formal learning," said the principal of an EtonHouse pre-school in Mountbatten. "Research shows that it is very beneficial for a child to have one-to-one bonding sessions with a parent reading to them and having that connection."
The volunteers encourage parents to spend some time reading with their children at home.
Said Ms Lin: "What we want to share with parents is that they can learn alongside their children. It's okay even if you have only 10 or 15 minutes every day to flip through a book together.
"It's okay if they can't read the words. They can talk about the pictures together. The important thing is to bond over the storybooks."