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.