Monday, May 23, 2016

Making the push for reading and appreciation of Singapore literature

Reading has been in the news a lot lately. In March, Straits Times reported that an NAC survey showed only 44% of Singaporeans had read a book in the past year. This statistic is even sadder when you consider that for some, this one book could be 50 Shades of Grey. The common excuse given was lack of time, which I feel is rubbish lah. I constantly see people on their phones. If they have time to Facebook for hours, they have time to read.

A reading culture is best nurtured when young. Unfortunately, I feel our school environment doesn't help. The obsession with grades, tuition and studies leaves little time for much else. Our kids are so bogged down that when they have free time, all they want to do is zone out. It's made worse by the fact that many parents prefer to have their kids read only educational books (Guide to Acing your PSLE!) and fiction is considered simply a "nice-to-do" but unessential activity. How do we groom a reading habit with such practices?

It was therefore such a refreshing change when Lesley-Anne and I spoke at the Canadian International School last week and found out from the librarian that the kids there are avid readers. Last year, each student borrowed an average of 40 books. The librarian had set out a special Danger Dan borrowing box and all the books were out!

Here are more Danger Dan updates:

First, Secrets of Singapore was one of the finalists in the recent Singapore Book Awards (Best Non-Fiction Title)!

Even though the book didn't win in the end, we were happy to have made the finals list. We were even more thrilled that and even happier that our publisher, Epigram Books, was the big winner at the awards. Here we are the inimitable Mr Epigram Books himself, Edmund Wee, and Lydia, the designer for Secrets of Singapore.

To celebrate the awards, Secrets of Singapore and all other winning/shortlisted titles at the Singapore Book Awards are going for 20% off on the Epigram Books website, now till end of May! Coupon code: SBASLP2016.

In other news, the first book in our new Danger Dan and Gadget Girl series, The Animal Abduction, has already created plenty of excitement in schools, especially with the introduction of the new furry character, Power Paws!

Here's a review of the book by book blogger, Priscilla. She gave the book five stars and suggested it be included as supplementary reading for schools. Quote:

"Kids shouldn’t be kept in the dark when it comes to serious issues like global warming and wildlife conservation. But that doesn’t mean you should tell them bluntly in the face. Somehow, the mother-daughter writing team managed to keep the book light-hearted, educational, and engaging."

Finally, Straits Time reported in May that Singapore's literary scene was enjoying a revival. I'm not sure I would go that far but certainly, the increased publicity and focus on reading has helped. And I'm very proud to be associated with Epigram Books, which has been at the forefront, pushing for Singapore literature to gain recognition and acceptance in its own right.

Danger Dan got a small mention in the article as one of the most borrowed children's titles from the National Library Board. It's a modest achievement but we're always happy to hear that kids enjoy reading Danger Dan. It's what keeps us going. Here's hoping the trend will continue!

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