Growing up, Deekshanya Kugesh was an avid reader of the Percy Jackson And The Olympians series by American author Rick Riordan, but she never quite got to reading all five books.
That was until her school launched a reading programme last year, giving pupils scheduled time to read, as well as a book corner called the Reading Nook, and a Characters Alive Day, in which everyone dresses up as fictional characters to celebrate World Book Day on April 23.
With reading the buzzword at school, Deekshanya, a Primary 6 pupil, finally finished the series, which she counts as her favourite.
Yesterday, the reading programme by Princess Elizabeth Primary School earned it the first prize in the primary school category of the inaugural Reading Excellence Awards, jointly organised by the National Library Board (NLB) and the Ministry of Education.
Principal Moliah Hashim said the participation of teachers and staff was important increating an environment in which books are loved and talked about. "When you have teachers who believe in and champion the habit of reading, the children will be motivated," she said.
In the secondary school category, Clementi Town Secondary took the top prize with its programme, Read@CTSS, which allocates 15 minutes for students to read a book of their choice twice a week.
Secondary 2 student Zen Tan appreciates the time. "Usually, we are too busy with schoolwork to read, so we really look forward to the 15 minutes," he said.
Both schools were presented with $10,000 each by Minister of State for Education Janil Puthucheary at the award ceremony held at the National Library Building.
LEADING THE WAY
When you have teachers who believe in and champion the habit of reading, the children will be motivated.
PRINCIPAL MOLIAH HASHIM, on how teachers are key to encouraging reading.
Dr Puthucheary said reading is "the most powerful tool to transform someone's personal development" and urged schools to keep reinforcing its importance.
According to a survey conducted by the National Arts Council from 2015 to 2016, only 44 per cent of respondents aged 15 and above had read at least one literary book.
This was despite 80 per cent agreeing that reading enabled people to learn new things, and 72 per cent believing that reading improved their quality of life.
A third school, Qifa Primary, won the Crowd Favourite award, winning $2,000 in prize money by having the highest number of public votes for its video of its reading programme on the NLB website.
The school's library coordinator, Ms Seow Wen-Qi, said the programme is run by a core group of eight to 10 parents, who volunteer to conduct the weekly storytelling and discussion session, Book-a-licious.
"Seeing a familiar face helps to keep the pupils interested in the stories," she added.
Primary 5 pupil Florence Ko Ko, whose father is one of the volunteers at the West Coast Avenue school, agreed. "It is my favourite part of the programme," she said.
The awards will be given every three years to recognise schools' efforts in engaging students through reading programmes.