Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

Rise to the challenge of encouraging kids to read

Wednesday, September 9th, 2020
Educators and policymakers must rise to the challenge and ensure children receive the education they deserve. - NSTP/FARIZUL HAFIZ AWANG
Educators and policymakers must rise to the challenge and ensure children receive the education they deserve. – NSTP/FARIZUL HAFIZ AWANG

LETTERS: Yesterday was International Literacy Day (ILD). Despite progress in literacy in the past decades, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (Unesco) statistics show that more than 617 million children and adolescents are not achieving minimum proficiency levels in reading and mathematics.

Unesco defines literacy as the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate and compute, using printed and written materials associated with varying contexts.

This supersedes mere reading, writing and arithmetic capabilities. The Covid-19 pandemic will affect how we learn. The poor, have-nots and marginalised will be most affected.

A United Nations study estimated that 463 million children lack equipment or electronic access to pursue distance learning.

Rightly so this year, the ILD theme is devoted to “Literacy teaching and learning in the Covid-19 crises and beyond”, with a focus on the role of educators and changing pedagogies.

Educators and policymakers must rise to the challenge and ensure children receive the education they deserve.

Schools may close but learning has to go on. And what better way when parents at home can play a role. Instead of letting a child’s finger swipe a smartphone, why not read to them and by doing so, encourage reading books as a habit?

What about learning or reading from webpages? Let’s call upon family and community initiatives to encourage reading.

Community libraries provide resources and spaces to read. Donors can donate good reading materials.

Used books can spur someone’s imagination. Books enrich people’s life. Read a book and your life may be transformed.

by Cheah C.F.

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A way to empower our young

Thursday, April 23rd, 2020
Nurturing the reading habit in children will help develop their mind, emotional intelligence and imagination.Nurturing the reading habit in children will help develop their mind, emotional intelligence and imagination.

LETTERS: World Book Day is celebrated on April 23 annually in over a hundred countries worldwide.

The date was chosen to commemorate the passing of renowned authors, such as William Shakespeare and Miguel Cervantes.

It is a day to celebrate reading, authors and everything related to books. One of its charity missions is to provide every child and young person a book of their own as a way to encourage them to explore the pleasures of books and reading.

Although World Book Day is not a major celebration in Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur has been named World Book Capital for 2020 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) which is an honour.

Kuala Lumpur is the 20th city to be awarded the title. While book lovers celebrate World Book Day all over the world, perhaps it is time for Malaysians to start joining the celebration and also time for those yet to pick up the reading habit to learn about this significant occasion.

As mentioned before, World Book Day aims to encourage reading among children and young persons, and as KL prepares to take the mantle of World Book Capital 2020, we need to encourage and nurture the reading habit in our children.

Reading books improves the well-being and development of children and young persons.

Empowerment of children through reading is among the focus in KL World Book Capital 2020. A good parent will always strive to inculcate in a child the love of reading.

Reading helps with the process of understanding and comprehending words and storyline, focusing attention by enhancing listening and analytical thinking, and creating and building confidence and empathy.

By encouraging a love of reading, we can give children something even more special — a way to learn and explore while having fun.

Nurturing the reading habit in children will help develop their mind and enhance their memory, emotional intelligence and imagination.

This is why a celebration like World Book Day is important in developing a passion for reading and books in the young generation.

Activities like reading imaginatively together with children can enhance their receptive language skills and help build their imagination through the sharing of stories and exchange of information while also giving children a chance to tell their own stories.

We can organise an event where pre-schools and kindergartens can hold a dress-up event in celebration of World Book Day as a way to promote reading among children.

Children can come together to celebrate World Book Day by dressing up as their favorite book characters while enjoying a range of book-related activities.

Throughout the day, teachers can organise various book-themed activities for all the children to enjoy while nurturing their love for books.

We can also give children books as a gift in conjunction with World Book Day as a means to encourage them and celebrate this special occasion.

By entrusting children with their own books, they will develop a sense of responsibility as a way to build character as they grow older.

The celebration of World Book Day is very important to ensure that reading habits do not cease due to technology and modernisation.

It is essential for our young generation to develop a love for books and reading. It is the process of understanding which enables information retention. It also improves language skills including vocabulary.

Last but not least, reading definitely has the positive power to inspire and give more value to life.


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Use the time to read for self-improvement

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2020
The MCO due to Covid-19 provides us the opportunity to plant the love of reading books. – File pic for illustration purposes onlyThe MCO due to Covid-19 provides us the opportunity to plant the love of reading books. – File pic for illustration purposes only

LETTERS: The Movement Control Order (MCO) due to Covid-19 provides us the opportunity to plant the love of reading books. Promoting learning through reading will facilitate our desire to develop a culture of reading especially among our youth.

Generally our children who have to stay all day at home will find it boring but with the Movement Control Order (MCO) in place due to Covid-19, there is no better time than now.

Why should we foster a culture of reading? By fostering a love of reading, which is a joyous experience, we will be able to fill their lives new avenues of interest. Reading is a mental stimulation that will keep our brain active.

Youth who are stuck at home under the MCO should take reading as a new skill for self-improvement.

In the long run, it will also improve our memory. We will be able to gain new knowledge when we read something outside our field. With the wealth of knowledge we gained from reading, we can improve our skills.

Reading will definitely improve our proficiency in the English language. ith so much time we have at home, it gives us the opportunity to read as often and as widely as we can. Our children will gradually find out that books will offer them magical places where they can escape in a short while and enjoy scenic and beautiful lands with interesting experiences.

By reading, they will be able to see and appreciate pure nature and its beauty. Descriptive depiction of beautiful rural landscape with green grass and the blue bright sky will leave the reader in awe and he can still further imagine the unimaginable.

There is a real need to motivate and inspire our youth to reading now. I wish to quote a saying by Victor Hugo, a French poet and novelist which goes:

“To learn to read is to light a fire, every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.”

Another quotation that inspire reading is by an American writer, Madeline L’Engle who says: “A book, too can be a star, a living fire to lighten the darkness leading out into the expanding darkness”.

With these inspirational quotations it is high time we turn reading as a habit for us and our youth. Reading spiritual texts and good inspirational and motivational books will bring about an immense sense of calm to the readers.

It has been shown that reading self-help books will help people suffering from certain mood disorders and mild mental illnesses. Many of us find books as friends. I wish to quote what Paul Sweeney, a British author once said:

“You know you have read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend”.

Another benefit of reading is that it will fuel us with creativity and inspiration. With our enhanced knowledge from books, we will be able to put them to practical use.

Only with a well-read and well-educated population will our beloved nation Malaysia grow into a highly developed nation in a short span of time.


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Pick up the reading habit

Sunday, March 15th, 2020
There’s a need to promote the reading culture across the nation.

LETTERS: THIS year, Kuala Lumpur is named Unesco World Book Capital (KLWBC 2020) although, disappointingly, a Malaysian reads an average of two books a year.

We spend almost 14 hours a day on the phone and browsing the Internet. In fact, almost a quarter of our day is spent on social media.

Despite technological and digitisation advances affecting and changing the way we search, process, use and share information, we must promote the reading culture across the nation, at home and in schools.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) 2018 Programme International Student Assessment states that when reading, we must
be able to understand, evaluate, use and reflect on and engage with texts in order to achieve goals, develop knowledge and potential, and participate in society.

Hence, mastering reading skills is essential.

Here are some tips to be a better reader. Find a quiet place to read. When reading, stop thinking about problems or anything that may distract you. Focusing on the content will help with faster comprehension.

Vocalising words when one is reading slows down reading speed and affects brain assimilation capabilities.

Set a goal on the quantity of material to read per day. Increase it as time goes by.

By knowing your reading speed through measuring quantity of words read per hour, you will know how much progress you are making.

Do not read words one after another. Read words in groups. Apply skim reading technique by scanning topics and subtopics of pages, paragraphs and chapters. Scan key words and try to
determine the content through experience.

If you have children, read to them. The reading habit is best cultivated at a young age to ensure that they will be readers when they grow up.

When my siblings and I were young, our parents had no time to do so but they converted a room for reading, with bookshelves, and encouraged us to buy books.

Until today, we still select the books that we like to read.

Education is lifelong learning. We should endeavour to educate ourselves all the time and there is no better way than finding knowledge in books.

Abraham Lincoln once said: “All I have learned, I learned from books. My best friend is a person who will give me a book I have not read.”

So put down the phone and pick up a book.


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NST Leader: Books, a reading

Friday, March 13th, 2020
Studies after studies show that great minds read a lot. FLICKR/Abhi Sharma
THE World Book Day on March 5 went unnoticed like a wanted criminal. Did politicking of the recent past kill the book? Or is this a sign of a dying national habit?

Studies after studies show that great minds read a lot. And they read consistently, too. With them, reading is a habit. Not an occasional pursuit.

What’s more, science is for the turning of pages. Reading boosts the brain and expands our intellectual horizon. Having spent enormous years living a rich life, they “book” them like an Everyman’s Guide. Call it vicarious learning.

Behind every great man there is a shelf of books.

But Malaysians are a difficult lot to convince when it comes to politics and books. Maybe because both are a numbers’ game.

Let’s talk about books. Literacy data revealed in 2016 tell an impressive story: 85 per cent of Malaysians read regularly. But a deep dive tells a sad story hidden behind the number. Only three per cent read books.

We may be a nation of book buyers — survey in 2018 showed that 76 per cent of Malaysians bought at least one book a year — but we may not be reading what we buy. Picodi also reveals a troubling fact: 24 per cent of Malaysians do not buy any books at all. With hope, they borrow to read.

People in developed nations read 40 books a year, an average of three books a month. We may not be a developed nation yet, but we should not be left too far behind.

There is also a gender divide in Malaysia when it comes to reading. Women get to the bottom of the page faster than men. Is that why women are, on average, better than men off the pages? Women or men, we must be a nation of readers.

This won’t happen without urges and nudges. And money and method. Reading must be caused, and at a very young age, too. Like it is in every reading nation.

Experts tell us reading isn’t like speech. To speak, all an infant needs to do is to be around people and in a year, he is all words. Not all infants are like that, of course. Some are known even to have taken five years to utter the first intelligible word.

Acquiring a reading habit is more complex. It needs more than being surrounded by books. We can’t leave a child in the national library and five years later expect him to give us a reading of Charles Dickens’ The Great Expectations. That will be a great expectation, indeed.

More is needed. And it must be done at the national level. Homes must be groomed to be a reading environment. So must the community. If the people cannot go to the library, the library must go to them.

Public and private sectors must come together to integrate resources and commitment to make a great reading public. There was such an effort in 2018 when the National Reading Decade (2020-2030) was shaped into being by the Education Ministry. Will it survive the fall of the government? Time will tell. In that time, perhaps a book or two should be read.

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As KL prepares to take mantle of World Book Capital 2020, kids encouraged to read

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2019
“Book authors and publications can take this opportunity to promote their titles throughout the (year-long) campaign,” Fahmi added. STR/SHAHNAZ FAZLIE SHAHRiZAL

KUALA LUMPUR: Parents are urged to inculcate the habit of reading among their children – especially as the capital city prepares to take the mantle of World Book Capital 2020.

It is hoped that the international celebration of reading under the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) will further boost KL-ites’ love of the written word, especially in book form.

“While we have e-books, they are nothing compared to the feeling of holding a book and completing reading it,” said Lembah Pantai Member of Parliament Fahmi Fadzil.

He called on everyone to make an effort to read at least one book a month.

“The material doesn’t have to be something serious – even comics will do,” Fahmi said in his speech at the Back-to-School programme, organised by Pertubuhan Anak Kerinchi, at Taman Bukit Angkasa here, today.

He also invited players in the publishing industry to take advantage of KL’s World Book Capital 2020 status to highlight the joys of reading and the wide array of material available.

“Book authors and publications can take this opportunity to promote their titles throughout the (year-long) campaign,” Fahmi added.

As World Book Capital, Kuala Lumpur will stage a range of events and initiatives to promote books and reading throughout 2020, starting with the World Book and Copyright Day on April 23.

On a separate matter, Fahmi appealed to parents to monitor their children’s activities, especially during school holidays.

“I’m especially concerned with the basikal lajak trend among the youth.

“Here, in Lembah Pantai, some children can be seen riding bicycles on the NPE (New Pantai Expressway), which could pose a danger to their safety,” he said.

Fahmi added that parents, and the community at large, should spend time with children and conduct meaningful activities which would enhance their lives and keep them out of harm’s way.

By Nuradzimmah Daim.


NST Leader: Big Think

Sunday, November 24th, 2019
Reading makes a full man. NSTP

TODAY’s Leader is about life’s big questions. About why we are here and other deep questions about reality. After all, today is World Philosophy Day.

No, the aim is not to be a one-day Socrates. Or a Plato or an Aristotle. There is no harm in one day-deep thinking, though. After all, as the contemporary teacher of thinking, Dr Edward De Bono, says, thinking is very hard to do. But it is a skill like any other, and it can be learned.

Unfortunately, as De Bono has found out through his Big Think journey round the world, including Malaysia, thinking, though the most important human skill, is often neglected.

One reason is that many feel thinking is only for philosophers. This may have been true 2,500 years ago when the philosophically-minded Greeks pondered the imponderables. It is true that the ancient philosophers looked out their windows to see the world in its splendid ways.

And they shared this splendour with others through their writings. But as time passed, the writings were more about their windows than the splendours of the world.

Thanks to modern philosophers, we have moved from windows to the world. Political philosopher Michael Sandel, who teaches at Harvard University, is one such.

In his lectures and books such as Justice and What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets, he stimulates debates on how we view the world and on what moral basis.

In another of his book, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice, Sandel carves out a big place for moral purpose in our lives. The Observer of the United Kingdom once called him the master of life’s big questions.

We, too, must engage our minds on such big questions. After all, we are great meaning seekers.

We do these things in journalism — stimulating debates about life’s big and small questions. And proffering points of view.

Philosophers have a place in journalism, not the types who write reams on what makes a good window but how to keep this world as good as we found it.

Philosophy enables a particular turn of mind. One that questions and explores possibilities. De Bono says 90 per cent of error in thinking is due to perception. Philosophy can help change this error-prone perception. Time we thought seriously about thinking.

For this to happen, the teaching of philosophy must change. Too much of pontification is not good for the discipline. Teaching students to philosophise isn’t enough. They must be taught to do philosophy.

The fault may be that our academia may have strayed too far from the etymology of “philosophy” — love of wisdom. Wisdom only comes to those who think their way through this human world.

And act according to this wisdom. How should we live our lives? What makes right actions right? Should everything be for sale? Our universities must make the tools to wisdom — critical thinking and analysis — available to our students. But wisdom just doesn’t happen.

It needs to be caused, and early too. Big questions get answered well by those who read widely. Schools must encourage this reading habit. Reading newspapers daily helps. Francis Bacon was right. Reading makes a full man. So does Big Think.

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Read more for better, developed thinking

Sunday, November 24th, 2019
Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said the programme was aimed at cultivating a reading culture among Penangites. – STR/SHAHNAZ FAZLIE SHAHRIZAL

GEORGE TOWN: Reading culture among the people, especially the younger generation, is important to ensure mature and developed thinking.

This was the message from the National Reading Decade Programme, which was launched today

Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said the programme was aimed at cultivating a reading culture among Penangites.

He said this was essential as reading was the first step to developing a more mature and developed thinking citizens.

“Reading ensure the development of a country, and based on statistics of the 2014 Malaysian Reading Habits Interim Studies showed that 95 per cent of Malaysians read an average of 15 books a year, which was an increase compared to eight to 12 books a year in 2010.

“However, our aim is to increase the average number to 31 a year,” he said at the launch of National Reading Decade Programme.

Muhammad Fazrul Ariff Saad, 29, from Kulim, who received the Little Reader Treasure Box for having bought a lot of books and visited the library frequently, said he often took his children there to develop reading habit.

“Libraries are commonly thought of as a stilted environment where one must be absolutely quiet, but most libraries currently have a very open concept with lots of activities and also special area for children.

“Children can play, read and participate in a lot of other activities in the libraries,” he said.

He said he usually took his two daughters to the library on weekends or book shops to inculcate an appreciation and love for books.

“It starts with the parents. We have to teach our children to love books and we have to start early,” he said.

Teacher Rina Chan, 43, said besides improving their command of languages, reading would ensure an enlightened and broad-minded generation.

“he reading culture was prevalent in the past as it was one of the main entertainment or leisure activities and modes of learning.

“These days, there are so many ways of learning, but I believe reading is still one of the most important method of gaining knowledge and it’s not just reading of books but news, magazines and other legitimate materials on the Internet,” she said.

However, she said the public should apply cautious in relying heavily on materials in social media sites.

“Check the validity of the information, because there are so many fake news and fake information that is being disseminated online that it would only retard one’s thinking.

“Bearing this in mind, reading books should still be the most important source of reading material.” she said.

By Balvin Kaur.

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Reading and Reading aloud

Monday, November 18th, 2019

HAVE you ever noticed some children who could read fluently but have problems comprehending a text? There are others who can’t read a single word on the page but may understand when they are read to. Reading aloud means to pronounce words correctly. It is the ability to associate the sound with the printed words on the page or on the screen.

Generally, in a reading lesson in Malaysian schools, students are asked to choral repeat the passage known as group read-aloud (e.g., Ghanaguru, Ng &, Ng, 2019; Yacoob, 2006; Yacoob & Pinter, 2008). It is presumed that students who can read aloud fluently are good readers. The truth is pronunciation and understanding are two distinct elements, yet important aspects of reading. Pronunciation is to give each syllable a sound so that fluency is achieved. Understanding a text is more complicated. It involves the readers’ vocabulary size, their prior knowledge of the topic, syntax and lexis to make sense of the text. In the higher-order processes, making inferences and reasoning are involved.

The goal of this paper is to discuss reading aloud in the classrooms. In the first section, I will focus briefly what student reading aloud is and suggest ways to improve reading fluency. In the second section, I will emphasise the importance of teacher reading aloud to students.

Students read aloud

When struggling readers are asked to read aloud, their focus is on decoding a text correctly on the page without paying attention to the meaning construction or thinking about the narrative. They use all their mental faculties to decode words.

As a result, they lose focus and are not able to comprehend the words on the page. This is a challenge for at-risk students. The thought of pronouncing correctly each word in the paragraph fills them with dread as they cannot listen to others who are reading. Therefore, reading aloud can be a stressor.

When students struggle to read the sections of text aloud or when they mispronounce, teachers tend to correct them on the spot. At best, the students repeat the word and learn the right way of pronouncing it. At worst, this may cause humour and shame particularly when they are laughed at by their friends. Eventually, this kills their interest in reading. As evidenced by other research, oral reading can be nerve-racking to some students. Even good readers feel uncomfortable to read aloud, they feel embarrassed and worried about what others may think of them if they cannot pronounce properly.

Having said that, reading fluency is crucial. Research has showed that reading fluency and comprehension are highly correlated. That means when students are reading fluently, it is likely that they understand what they are reading.

Teaching phonics is one way to help young learners improve their reading fluency. Each letter in English has a sound called a phoneme. Children learn the three-letter word or CVC word which comprised of a consonant, a vowel and another consonant. Then they are introduced to vowel digraphs. A digraph is made up of two vowels put together to make a sound. For example, /oo/, /ee/, and /ai/ are vowel digraphs. This is followed by introducing consonant digraphs i.e., two consonants put together to make one sound such as /ch/, /th/. In other words, children move from learning individual letter sound to blending the sound and finally saying the whole word and subsequently a sentence.

Readers theatre is another effective way of teaching reading fluency. It is a technique for students to read aloud with expressions. Readers theatre is like a small-scale drama in which students do not need to memorise their parts. They retain their scripts and hold them with their left hands. Like drama, students are able to move freely, using gestures and body movements. Readers theatre can be performed anywhere – it can be the floor of the classroom – without stage sets, costumes or props. Instead, readers use their voices to express themselves. Repeated reading is the gem of readers theatre. Students practise reading before performing and this gives them a purpose to read aloud and to perform which they enjoy fondly. Since everyone has a part, students will not feel that they are put on a spot, not even struggling readers. As students practise reading over and over again, fluency is achieved. Not only that, their comprehension also improves. In essence, readers theatre helps develop fluency and increase comprehension.

Teachers read to students

Teachers reading aloud to students bridges the divide to literacy. Reading aloud to students “motivates students to read on their own, model good reading, promote critical thinking, and create a sense of community in the classroom” (Oczkus, 2012). Early childhood educators have long been aware of the importance of reading aloud to children and the role it plays in children’s emergent literacy development and eventual reading achievement (Bus, van Ijzendoorn, & Pellegrini, 1999; Fox, 2013; Kalb & van Ours, 2014; Swanson, Vaughn, Wanzek, Petscher, Heckert, Cavanaugh, Kraft, & Tackett, 2011).

Reading to students in general, is missing in Malaysian schools. Most students go through primary schools or secondary schools without anyone reading to them. In a recent preliminary study on 54 18- to 19-year-olds, 37pc of them have never read any children stories in English. 33pc read one children story. Only 7.7pc of the respondents claimed that they read five children stories. Out of 54 students, three students read famous children tales like Ugly Duckling, and two read Little Red Riding Hood. This can be understood as English is learned as a second language, while others a foreign language.

In another study on 38 primary school teachers in Sabah, 81.6pc of them state that they use the prescribed text book to teach reading most of the times. This implies that students will rarely have a chance to read children tales in English if teachers do not introduce this genre or read to them in the classroom.

Reading aloud to someone is a shared reading experience between a child and a parent or guardian or teacher (Ledger & Merganser, 2018). Recent research has shown that reading aloud to children enhances children’s social-emotional development and sustains impacts on attention problems crucial for education and health (Mendelssohn et al., 2018).

Programme for International Student Assessment or PISA Test results in 2009 found that reading books to young primary students and talking with adolescents about books have a positive bearing on students’ learning (OECD, 2012). This shows that reading aloud is not just limited to young children.

Although reading aloud to is not a panacea, its benefit is enormous in terms of nurturing the literacy development of all students, including at-risk students. An analysis of 29 studies found that read-aloud interventions have significant effects on children’s language, their phonological awareness, print concepts, comprehension, and vocabulary suggesting that read-aloud interventions increase at-risk children’s literacy outcomes than children who do not take part in these interventions (Swanson et al. 2012). Reading to students helps develop students’ concept of print, story structure and the other elements of texts. It also enriches students’ information about the text. In a seminal report Becoming a Nation of Readers: The report of the Commission on Reading (1985), Anderson, Hebert, Scott and Wilkinson contend that:

The opportunities to read aloud and listen to others read aloud are features of the literate environment, whatever the reader’s level. There is no substitute for a teacher who reads children good stories. It whets the appetite of children for reading and provides a model of skilful oral reading. It is a practice that should continue throughout the grades (p. 51).

Teachers model the act of reading in the classroom has a flurry of benefits. Research has shown that teacher modelling in reading aloud practices has positively impact secondary students’ attitudes towards reading. Attitude refers to one’s “preference for a topic, subject, or activity” (Albright, 2000, p. 17). By modelling, it means teachers read dramatically using vivid expressions and expressive movements such as hand gestures and facial expressions. When teachers model reading behaviours particularly pronunciation, style, and intonation, it motivates students to read aloud and thereby improve their reading attitude. However, in Clark and Andreasen’s study (2014), the researchers found that the level of students’ engagement during teacher read aloud was inconsistent. Some students enjoyed the story, while the others did not. Some claimed that they enjoyed teacher reading aloud because the ambience was more relaxing than when teacher was teaching. These students felt that they were not asked to read so they were relieved, particularly students who were apathetic.

McGee and Schickedanz (2007) claim that unless books are shared with students involving them in asking and answering question, making predictions and inferences, reading aloud to students cannot increase students’ vocabularies and also their understanding (Dickinson, 2001). In other words, listening to stories passively is insufficient. Interaction with the teacher and peers after reading aloud can increase students’ vocabulary knowledge (Hargrave & Senechal, 2000). That means when students actively participate in dialogic and analytical thinking, reading aloud session becomes alive, paving the way for the growth of literacy development.

Bernadette Dwyer (2019), the past president of International Literacy Association says that, “lack of literacy [is] a problem we can no longer ignore.” Our students can’t learn to read by confining to ‘reading’ the English textbook in class. I echo the International Literacy Association’s Children’s Rights to Read initiative: ensuring equity, equality of opportunity, and social justice for all children. Whatever backgrounds our students come from, whatever ethnicities they are, or whatever their social circumstances they are, we are held responsible for our students’ right to read!

By: Jocelyn Lee.

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Cannot let go the love for reading

Monday, October 28th, 2019
Now what shall I tell you about today?  After my grumble about macaroni cheese in this column, I was asked to put my money where my mouth is and talk about it on Ben Uzair’s KK12FM show, Make it Happen.  It’s on today (Sunday) at 8 – 10 am, so I hope you enjoy my blathering! He’s a patient man!

I love radio.  It’s so much more fun than television. You can listen while you are doing something else.

You can listen anywhere, instead of being pinned to the sofa. And you can let your imagination fill in all the gaps. It’s like reading, which is why it’s not easy reading first and seeing all your characters look different on the screen.

The pitfalls of Feverfall

I do hope people enjoy reading as I struggle with my second book, Feverfall.  It is set in a strange island that might be Sabah might be Cambodia might be anywhere, and has people who have characteristics and traditions that might be vaguely recognisable, but it is a work of fiction and I am playing with all of it.

The heroine is half British, because that’s what I know, and half something else. There may or may not be a murder. Magic. A love affair. I’m enjoying myself, when I actually place myself upon the chair in front of the computer and get going.

But as usual I find myself a hundred distractions before I do that. I even go to the gym, so it must be bad! Then I have a shower and wash and dry my hair. 20 mins.
I check the watering of the plants – at least 15. I go through my emails and messages – oh goodie, there are plenty so that takes half an hour. I can be so creative, until there really is nothing left to do except write.

And the silly thing is, once I start, I’m in, and the story picks itself up and proceeds. I do enjoy it, but not enough to do what Somerset Maugham did (I am not assuming that my talent compares with his but I envy both that and his work ethic).

He would have breakfast, work till noon and then have the rest of the day to do whatever he liked at his Villa Mauresque in the South of France and elsewhere.  You have to just push yourself to start, and then off you go.

Look – today I’m writing this column. Much more manageable – the final full stop is visible.

My novel’s is hidden in the swirling mists of the future.


What have you been reading? I have just finished a very odd autobiography of Anne Glenconner, a Lady in Waiting to Princess Margaret.

No idea why I started it but it was oddly gripping with its tales of her complicated, stylish and unpredictable husband (weeping loudly at the opera about missing someone, wearing a PVC suit in the Caribbean and refusing to take it off until he fainted with the heat), her demanding boss who she depicts as having a sense of humour and kindness, and it is heartbreaking as she tells of the loss of her two sons.

Before that I read the autobiography of Elton John, which is warts and all, and very funny, even in the depths of his drug-addled stardom.

And it has a happy ending.

Now what? There’s lots out there but I have become a lazy reader and unless I find something really tempting, I tend to lean towards Lee Child and Jack Reacher (oh, if only…).

Recently I have devoured Philip Pullman’s Book of Dust, Mary Beard’s Women and Power, and I am about to start Girl Woman Other, Bernadine Evaristo’s novel that won this year’s Booker Prize. I hope it’s worth the fanfare.

A familiar face

I went to the cinema the other day to see Gemini Man. It was better than the reviews had led me to believe.

I settled down to watch, winding a pashmina round my chilly shoulders and sticking earplugs in to try to reduce the noise (why do cinemas have to be so cold and so noisy???), and munched my way through a hot dog that was so delicious that it had to be bad for me.

Will Smith was Will Smith, the woman I had not heard of but liked (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, not the starriest of names, and there was a bald man who was Smith’s handler who looked a little familiar.

I didn’t spend much time thinking about it. He was convincing, and that was what mattered while I watched.

I checked the cast list at the end. Ralph Brown.  Of course he was familiar! I went to school with him!

He always wanted to be an actor, and I remember sewing him into his costume at the school play. He was very handsome then, and, now in his 60s, is rather less so – but the boy can act!

I checked on Wikipedia and learnt that:

As of October 22, 2019, Gemini Man has grossed $38.2 million in the United States and Canada, and $83.3 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $121.4 million.

It is estimated the film will need to gross around $275 million worldwide in order to break even.  Blimey – that’s an awful lot of money.  Hurry up and get to the cinema. Ralph’s gotta eat.

By: Syvia Howe.

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