Read and share at book swop corner in Yishun

Nee Soon resident Meyar Lwin, 34, says she has taken a few comic books for her son from the neighbourhood's book exchange corner, which is located outside the town council office at Block 290, Yishun Street 22.
Nee Soon resident Meyar Lwin, 34, says she has taken a few comic books for her son from the neighbourhood's book exchange corner, which is located outside the town council office at Block 290, Yishun Street 22. ST PHOTO: CLARICE TEO

Standing outside the Nee Soon Town Council office at Block 290, Yishun Street 22, is a simple white shelf with a big mission.

It is the neighbourhood's book exchange corner, launched by the town council last month to encourage reading and sharing among residents.

They can drop off books that they no longer need at the corner, and pick up others that they find interesting.

Currently, about 150 books line the open bookshelf. They include comics, novels, children's books, cookbooks and self-help books.

Residents are also encouraged to share on social media what they love about the book they had picked up from the corner. Hopefully, this will foster friendships among book lovers in the neighbourhood.

Nee Soon GRC MP Louis Ng, who is also the town council chairman, said: "By sharing reading experiences, residents can build real and deep connections with one another. They can also reduce waste and save money by sharing books instead of buying them."

Fellow GRC MP Lee Bee Wah has donated books on health, business and current affairs, including Fight The Fat by sports physician Ben Tan; a Chinese book on the business strategies ofHong Kong magnate and philanthropist Li Ka Shing; and a book on Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Said Ms Lee, who is the vice-chairman of the town council: "I fully support this initiative. Reading gives us knowledge, entertainment and new perspective. By donating books, I get to share my passion with the residents."

Nee Soon resident Patrick Sim, 62, has donated about 20 storybooks. "It is a good initiative because it allows residents to recycle the books and reduce wastage," said the retiree.

The book exchange corner comes as a recent survey by the National Arts Council found that less than half of Singaporeans read at least one literary book a year.

This falls far behind the reading rate of other countries such as the United States, where 76 per cent read at least one book a year.

Several programmes have been launched over the years in the heartland to ensure residents have easy access to books.

These include the National Library Board's mobile library programme, which started in 1960.

The library on wheels, relaunched as Molly in 2008, visited various organisations and places such as primary schools and homes for the elderly. It can also be found at community centres and residents' committees in housing estates during the weekends.

Molly provides a collection of about 3,000 books for all age groups. Two smaller versions of Molly, called mini-Mollys, offer about 1,500 books each.

Among the five community development councils (CDC), the North East CDC is the only CDC with a mobile library programme.Each mobile library kiosk carries about 300 fiction and non-fiction titles on topics ranging from culinary to travel.

Tampines resident Roger Lee, 50, donated 168 books for pre-school readers to North East CDC's programme. Said the pastor: "Our kids are older now, so instead of throwing away (the books), my wife and I decided to donate them to the mobile library."

The community centres and clubs also have their own programmes to encourage reading among heartlanders.

Clementi Community Centre, for example, launched its Mandarin Reading Group in December 2007 to promote mental well-being among seniors through reading, while Henderson Community Club introduced the "We Love Learning" programme in 2004, which targets children aged four to 13 who live in rental blocks in Henderson Heights.

Meanwhile, residents in Nee Soon are taking to the book exchange corner. Said Ms Meyar Lwin, 34, a housewife: "I think this is a good initiative. I have taken a few comic books for my son from the corner. However, it would be better if it has a wider variety of books."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 26, 2016, with the headline Read and share at book swop corner in Yishun. Subscribe