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Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Why Don't Kids in Singapore Read?

As I'm wrapping up with the school term, I'm also gearing up to publicize my new book, Beyond the Tiger Mom: East-West Parenting for the Global Age. Today, I spoke with Michelle Martin on 938 Live (Singapore) about my book; the conversation will be aired soon on her show WOW: Women of Worth.

One of the things we talked about was the lack of a reading culture in Singapore. Why don't families here prioritize reading? If Singapore really wants to be an intellectual nation, then reading has to be at the center of children's lives.

Why aren't kids reading? Well, for one thing, the exam system doesn't reward reading for pleasure, so some parents see free reading as an indulgence instead of a necessity. The benefits of reading aren't immediately apparent, and they aren't easily quantifiable and measurable. But that doesn't mean they don't exist.

But, on the bright side, I've met a lot of wonderful people in Singapore who are working hard to change the way families think about reading. Michelle has a talk show called "Talking Books with Michelle," and the National Book Council runs a number of reading-related events including the annual Asian Festival of Children's Content (AFCC), which celebrates Asian children's literature. And the libraries on the island are fantastic.

So I'm optimistic. There's so much great children's literature out there, and there are a whole host of promising new Asian writers, so hopefully, families will begin to see the value of reading. I honestly can't imagine my life and my home without books. They have enriched my life so much, and they are so central to everything I do. As an educator, inspiring kids to love reading is a central part of my job. And creating a reading culture in my home is one of the most pleasurable aspects of parenting. Anna Quindlen captured my feelings beautifully when she said, "Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination and the journey. They are home."

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