Thursday, June 09, 2005

READ! Singapore

Year after year the National Library Board will launch its reading campaign to get Singaporeans to read more. I wonder if they have seriously looked into the actual causes for the low reading habit and are doing something to solve them.

I suspect one of the main reasons could be poor reading skill. An article in The Independent, "Kelly bows to pressure for teaching by phonics", revealed that the methods used in schools to teach reading did make a difference in the children reading ability. Under the current methods used in UK, one in five children were unable to read properly by the time they left primary school. In schools which experimented with synthetic phonics, the students were seven months ahead of fellow pupils after a year. A primary school teacher related that she started teaching her youngest son synthetic phonics when he was just three and a half and at 10 he was already an avid reader. She believed synthetic phonics had given the boy an advantage that was denied to his older siblings who learnt using other methods.

Therefore, in order to get Singaporeans, esp the children, to read more, we have to ensure that they have mastered the art of reading. And it is important to catch them young as once they become avid reader it is very likely that they will remain so.

Another culprit could be the TV. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, professor of psychology at Claremont Graduate University, said that "watching too much TV induces passivity, both at the level of neural functioning and of behaviour, and that it interferes with learning and reduces political and civic participation." Watching too much TV, thus, could slowly kill our mental capacity to sustain reading. Well, the next time NLB wants to launch the reading campaign they may want to consider this slogan: "Watch Less TV and Read More Books!"