Celebrities Are Not Enough


Ipoh’s Michelle Yeoh was appointed Malaysia’s reading ambassador to promote the Information, Communication and Culture Ministry’s “Come and Read 1Malaysia” campaign. She is another high profile personality, after Malaysia’s first astronaut, to give talks on reading, in schools.

Do we really need celebrities to be our reading ambassadors? Are we only motivated when famous people are involved?  How accessible will Michelle be because only a few select schools will be graced by her presence? Shouldn’t the biggest encouragement come from us, the parents within the home?

Young readers are stimulated only when their parents read books, value reading and have ample reading material at home. It is pointless hiding a book away or placing it on the highest shelf. Books need to be visible and within children’s reach. Young readers also need easy access to interesting books at affordable prices.

Bookstores and newsagents are not the only source of books. True, new books are expensive. But dotted around Ipoh are good, second-hand bookstores. And one can always find good bargains on Ebay or good internet booksites.

We have libraries in our major towns. We do need more of them, preferably with a wider selection of books. Sometimes the attitude of the staff can be off-putting as they tend to place extra emphasis on dress code, rather than interest in books.

Some clubs like the Ipoh Swimming Club and Royal Ipoh Club have good libraries. Schools, or at least our Main Convent Ipoh, once had a well-stocked library with interesting books ranging from cooking to collecting as a hobby. We could borrow books during our activity period but sadly, many parents claim that few schools have this library facility, if at all.

Book exchange is a pretty inexpensive way of owning many titles without the cost of paying for new books. Another source of inexpensive books is the budget hotels which are frequented by westerners. These tourists travel with a handful of books which they donate to the hotel, on departure. These inexpensive books can be purchased from the hotel owner, usually for 50 sens.

As always, it is the simple ideas that work best especially when trying to promote anything, even reading. If we were to read ourselves then we set a good example to our children. It shows the child that the parent has chosen an activity which is enjoyable. Children are then more likely to develop the same habit.

Books make great gifts for birthdays, celebrations, or for taking on vacation. We should encourage our children to choose books as gifts to important people in their lives, and also to value the books they receive as gifts.

We could make reading fun for our children and act out stories, by using different voices. To deliver a story in a boring voice will kill any enthusiasm for reading, however exciting the story.

If we read a lot, we encourage independent readers to read as well. When we ask them about what they are reading, we engage them in conversation and stimulate interest in their subject.

It is best to turn off the television to provide ‘quiet time’. Television harms the developing young child and turning the television off, forces the child to seek alternative things to do, like reading.

Other ideas are making weekly or fortnightly trips to the library so that children look forward to borrowing new books. Also, books on CD or tape can be played when on long trips.

Encouraging reading in children is easy. The pleasures from being absorbed in a good story are plentiful and can only benefit both children and their parents. Thus, celebrities need not apply.


2 thoughts on “Celebrities Are Not Enough

  1. Part of the email in Bahasa Malaysia I sent a year ago, reads as:

    “Apa akan jadi kepada perkhidmatan perpustakaan atau aktiviti perpustakaan yang dirancang dan dilaksana selepas seseorang selebriti yang dijemput hadir untuk memeriahkan majlis meninggalkan pentas? Adakah terdapat peningkatan terhadap penggunaan perpustaakan, peningkatan kadar pinjaman bahan, semaraknya tabiat membaca? Atau sebaliknya. Atau usaha kita ini setakat ‘ibarat hangat-hangat tahi ayam’!

    Adakah selebriti yang dilantik sebagai icon kita itu menepati harapan kita? Atau dilantik kerana populariti mereka. Icon yang tidak gemar membaca, gagal memaklumkan judul buku terakhir yang dibaca dan lain-lain. Tidak berwajahkan ‘learnered’.

    Strategi untuk menggunakan artis terkenal sebagai usaha menarik lebih ramai orang untuk membaca ada dicadangkan didalam sebuah kajian membaca (Perpustakaan Negeri Sabah, 1992). Kebelakangan ini pendekatan ini rancak digunakan oleh perpustakaan awam diseluruh negara. Ianya gagal. Berjaya setakat memeriahkan majlis sahaja.”

    Years ago, young artistes were appointed as icon for reading as the national organizer thought reading artistes would enhance the reading habit amongst the young populace. Hence posters and video clips of songs on the theme sung by the artistes were launched. I was at the launching ceremony held at PWTC KL and sadly majority of the artistes introduced were unable to answer questions about books they have read etc. when asked by the Master of Ceremony!

    Once I have a chat with someone in the music industry talking about the intention of government employing artistes as icons for youth activities. He has high reservations on the subject. Lately I had an audience with a member of the royal family who politely declined to be appointed as ‘ambassador’ of reading for a state agency. She related that she is not qualified for the appointment.

    Reading is a passion. I have a high regard for habitual readers.

    Creating reading habit is more then mere promotion, publicity, advertising and advocacy. Librarians should know the whole spectrum of marketing for reading. They themselves should be readers.

    Have they be marketing their library programs and events and wondering why people don’t show up? Have they been marketing their reference services and databases yet still be disappointed in how many people know about them? Have they been wondering what they could do to make their marketing more successful?

    I feel that we should stop being iconic.

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