Speech By Mrs Lim Hwee Hua,Minister Of State For Finance And Transport, At KidsREAD's 2nd Anniversary Celebrations, 23 April 2006, 11.00 Am At The National Library23 Apr 2006
Dr Varaprasad, Chief Executive, National Library Board
Leaders of self-help groups
Volunteers Parents and children
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen
1. When I first heard about kidsREAD, I thought it was an excellent idea. Not only would kidsREAD benefit many children directly, but also would it bring about stronger community bonding. So, with the support of my grassroots, we set up a reading club in my ward at The Serangoon Community Club. The club was so popular with children and parents alike that very soon after, we had to expand it to a three-room club! We talked to the children, their parents, the residents and the volunteers. We concluded, "We need to expand! Since we are going to do so, what else can we do to make it better? We welcome your suggestions, your creative inputs!" The people were very enthusiastic. And the result is a club that we are all proud to call our own! We have each room designed according to a theme - nature, games and outer space. We have interactive elements and multimedia resources so that the children can have fun while they learn. And our residents simply love the programme. The number of children at The Serangoon Community Club reading club tripled from 26 to 75 in less than a year. At the national level, all the reading clubs have attracted more than 1,600 children since the programme started in 2004.
2. So, I am very happy to join you in celebrating the second anniversary of the kidsREAD programme. I want to thank you, the parents, the self-help groups, the volunteers, as well as the staff from the National Library Board and the People's Association for making it such a great success. Today, we also celebrate the graduation of 183 children from the second cohort. Dr Varaprasad told me that many of them had shown marked improvements in their reading skills. They are able to read without much help now. Take five year-old Lim Ke Zhi for example. Coming from a dialect-speaking background, Ke Zhi did not speak English initially. Since joining kidsREAD at The Serangoon CC, Ke Zhi is now able to read fluently in English on his own. He has even ventured to read his sister's primary one books. I am happy that kidsREAD has cultivated his interest in reading and I am sure he will be well prepared for primary one when the time comes.
3. This programme would not have been possible if not for the commitment of the self-help groups and the volunteers, as well as the support of the National Library Board and the People's Association. They came together wanting to do something to introduce the joy of reading to our children from the lower-income families. The self-help groups help to identify the children from families with special needs to join the programme and the volunteers sacrifice their time every week to read to the children and to engage them in hands-on activities.
4. Let me take this opportunity to highlight just one kidsREAD volunteer, Madam Grace Chng, as an example. She joined kidsREAD from day one and is a very dedicated volunteer. In the past two years, she faithfully offered her time at weekly reading sessions at the Redhill Student Service Centre Reading Club. She even went out of her way to help the children by compiling extra materials, monitoring their progress and updating parents on their children's progress. For those children who had graduated, she still arranged reading sessions for them on alternate Sundays. Her husband, Mr Jimmy Ho, eventually joined her to volunteer at the Reading Club too.
5. I believe that like Madam Grace Chng, many other kidsREAD volunteers share the same passion and dedication. I salute all of you for putting your heart and time into this meaningful programme. The investments you made in the children's lives have certainly helped them. At the same time, I am sure you have gained as much as the children, if not more, through witnessing their transformation, from beginners to eager readers. You have indeed made a difference in their lives.
6. I am happy that the commitment and support from the self-help groups, the volunteers, the National Library Board and the People's Association have paid off. From the initial nine clubs in April 2004, there are now 35 Reading Clubs at libraries, schools, community centres, student service centres, family service centres and even a special school, spread across the island. I would also like to recognise the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports and Singapore Pools for their generous support and funding of the Reading Clubs as well as the production of storytelling resource kits. The kits are handy tools for the volunteers. In addition, I thank supporting organisations such as schools, community centres, residents' committees, PCF education centres, student service centres and family service centres for making available their facilities and resources for the sessions to be conducted.
7. kidsREAD is the product of many organisations and people coming together to spread the interest for reading. I would like to invite other private, people and public organisations to come forward and join this worthy cause. You could encourage your staff to be volunteers, provide funding for reading materials and resources, or even start a Reading Club at your premises.
8. I believe that the best thing we can provide for our children is education. To start them right on the learning journey, we must introduce them to the joy of reading. If they love to read, whether it is fiction or non-fiction books, they will become lifetime readers and be enriched greatly by a journey of lifelong learning. Therefore, I urge parents to enrol their young children in this programme. Let us continue to reach out to more children, to get them on board this learning journey and reap the benefits of reading. By us all working together, we can open for our children a whole world of knowledge, imagination and possibilities.
9. Thank you.