KidsREAD Project
National Library Board

The Problem

Prior to 2004, community self-help groups in Singapore such as the Chinese Development Assistance Council, Singapore Indian Development Association and Yayasan Mendaki had been conducting their own reading programmes to help children from low-income families in their own communities to develop interest in reading and improve their studies. However, these programmes are limited by inadequate resources.

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
In 2004, kidsREAD was launched as a nationwide reading programme. Children aged 4 to 8 years from disadvantaged backgrounds get to attend an hour of reading session conducted by volunteer readers at a Reading Club near their homes.

During the first half hour, volunteers will read aloud stories from books to the participants. Thereafter, the children are divided into smaller groups according to their reading skills or age range. A volunteer is assigned to each group to engage the children in different interesting reading and related activities such as craft work, board games, poetry and songs. Each Club will have a ratio of 1 volunteer to 5 children.
kidsREAD synergises its effort with the community partners to reach out to as wide a pool of eligible children as possible. The National Library Board is responsible for developing the reading curriculum as well as for providing the storybooks and activity material (stationery, craft materials, activity books) for each session.
As a national reading programme, kidsREAD has set up more than 640 Reading Clubs to date, which are located in schools, community spaces, kindergartens and even special needs schools.

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, then Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports (now Minister for Communications and Information) mooted the idea of consolidating the resources of the various community self-help groups and NLB to develop a cohesive reading programme that would reach out to the targeted group of children. On 23 April 2004, the kidsREAD programme was officially launched as a nationwide reading programme by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Under the auspices of kidsREAD, self-help groups continue to promote reading among children, particularly children from low-income families. The People’s Association (PA) was subsequently roped in to provide the infrastructural support. As the secretariat for the programme, NLB develops the “reading infrastructure” by providing relevant materials and expertise to train the volunteers. In addition, NLB offers the platform for parents to understand the type of resources and facilities available at the libraries.

The self-help groups identify and channel suitable children to the programme from its database of needy families. They also recruit and recommend volunteers from their databases. They also help to publicise the programme to their communities. A firm advocate of active citizenry and multi-racial harmony, the People’s Association (PA) provides most of the venues for the reading clubs and paves the way for networking with grassroots organisations.

The programme received sponsorships from the Singapore Pools Pte Ltd, then Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (2004-2006), Singapore Totalisator Board and Ministry of Finance (2007- 2012).

(a) Strategies

 Describe how and when the initiative was implemented by answering these questions
 a.      What were the strategies used to implement the initiative? In no more than 500 words, provide a summary of the main objectives and strategies of the initiative, how they were established and by whom.
kidsREAD leveraged on the strengths of various community partners and corporate sponsors to create and sustain this reading programme. It promotes the love of reading, cultivates good reading habits and provides an avenue for children from various races to interact from an early age. Formation of kidsREAD Advisory and Working Committees

The kidsREAD Advisory Committee (comprising representatives from the People’s Association and the community self-help groups) lends support and provides advice on the programme while NLB serves as the secretariat.
The Working Committee, which comprises the volunteer coordinators, provides a platform for the discussion of key issues concerning the clubs as well as a forum for sharing ideas. Each reading club is assigned a volunteer co-ordinator who is responsible for running the club and managing the volunteers for the programme. The coordinators are either volunteers or staff from the organisation which is running the reading club.

Volunteer Readers
Forming the backbone of the programme, volunteers aged 15 years and above, who have a passion for reading and working with children are continually recruited to conduct the kidsREAD programme at various Reading Clubs located across Singapore. They will receive training in basic storytelling skills and techniques to conduct the kidsREAD reading session before they are assigned to the Clubs.

Training Materials
A set of kidsREAD Volunteer Resource Guidebooks is developed by early childhood educators to aid volunteers in the operation of the Reading Clubs. Comprising of detailed plans for each of the selected storybooks that will be used in the reading sessions, the guidebook also outlines suggested activities to enhance the children’s engagement with the story. Stationery, craft materials and puppets are provided at each reading club to equip volunteers with ample resources for their creative use.
Community Involvement
It started off with just the setting up of Reading Clubs at the community clubs and centres affiliated with community self-help groups. The plan evolved during the process of implementation as more parties came onboard and offered to set up Reading Clubs within their own organisations. Today, Reading Clubs are found in the Family Service Centres, Student Care Centres, community children’s libraries, schools and children’s homes.
These organisations also helped to recruit volunteers and children for their Clubs.
Through this extensive network, kidsREAD was able to broaden its reach and provide children with the opportunity to join the Reading Clubs.

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
- A Steering Committee comprising representatives from the community self-help groups and NLB was formed to plan, strategise and oversee the implementation of the programme.

- Launch of kidsREAD
- Formation of kidsREAD Advisory and Working Committees
- 18 kidsREAD clubs were set up, reaching out to 630 children and 215 volunteers
- Sponsorship was received from the Singapore Pools and MCYS to fund the programme

- First primary school to run its own kidsREAD club
- 35 reading clubs were set up, reaching out to 1000 children and 330 volunteers

- Volunteer Resource Guidebooks were developed
- kidsREAD was set up in a special needs school
- 52 reading clubs were set up, reaching out to 1480 children and 448 volunteers

- Sponsorship was obtained from the Singapore Totalisator Board
- Launch of kidsREAD Volunteer Appreciation Day
- 85 reading clubs were set up, reaching out to 2101 children and 814 volunteers

- Sponsorship was obtained from the Ministry of Finance
- 94 reading clubs were set up, reaching out to 2264 children and 1005 volunteers

- 109 reading clubs were set up, reaching out to 2802 children and 1006 volunteers

- 121 reading clubs were set up, reaching out to 2729 children and 1172 volunteers

- Extension of the reading programme from one year to five years was approved by Minister of then Ministry of Information Communication and the Arts, CEO NLB and the Advisory Committee of the National KidsREAD Programme (members include CEOs of Association of Muslim Professionals, Chinese Development Assistance Council, Singapore Indian Development Association, Eurasian Association and Mendaki. In total 129 reading clubs were set up reaching out to 3403 children and 1264 volunteers.

-Review of existing programme content and resource materials.
Conducted focus group discussion with kidsREAD Coordinators to receive suggestions on the 5 year programme.
Piloted the proposed programme content to 10 kidsREAD Reading Clubs. Received feedback and improve on the programme content.
Meet up with kidsREAD Coordinators to finalise the 5 year programme.
Meet up with principals of primary and secondary schools to encourage participation in the kidsREAD programme in 2013.

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
Recruiting committed volunteers
There are challenges with the recruitment of volunteers in certain areas of Singapore (eg in the West and North) due to the demographics of the population in those areas. While people are keen to volunteer, not many are able to commit an hour per week for a period of 6 months. Many a time, volunteers dropped out of the programme as a result of heavy work commitments and personal reasons.

Irregular attendance
We see a 20% dropout rate in every group of 20-25 children at the reading clubs. This could be due to a lack of interest among the children. Even if the children are keen to attend the sessions, their parents were unable to bring them to the club regularly because of work.

Measures Introduced
Despite these challenges, kidsREAD continues to grow.
Volunteers are recruited through ongoing community outreach initiatives and roadshows. To retain and attract volunteers, an annual Volunteer Appreciation Day was launched in 2007 to recognise volunteers for their dedication to the programme and to motivate others to join the programme. Awareness of kidsREAD through publicity has also assisted in garnering interest from potential volunteers as well as partners to support the programme.
In boosting the children’s attendance, educational talks are held to enable parents to understand the importance of cultivating an interest in reading from young. As a motivation for the children and parents, graduation prizes are awarded to children who achieve at least 80% attendance at the reading sessions.

(d) Use of Resources

 d.      What resources were used for the initiative and what were its key benefits? In no more than 500 words, specify what were the financial, technical and human resources’ costs associated with this initiative. Describe how resources were mobilized
Human Resource
kidsREAD is a volunteer-driven programme. The reading sessions are carried out by volunteer readers who commit an hour each week for a period of 6 months. Each reading club requires 5 volunteers for every group of 25 children. A volunteer coordinator helps with the administration of the reading club and serves as a contact point for all volunteers.
A team of 3 full-time staff runs the kidsREAD Secretariat to oversee the implementation of the programme, the needs of the reading clubs, programming of activities, budgetary controls, marketing and reporting to stakeholders.

Learning Resources
Materials (such as storybooks, stationery and guidebooks) are produced or purchased for the reading clubs to ensure volunteers and children have access to the necessary resources.
Volunteers are trained by professional storytellers in skills for verbal reading and conducting of a reading programme.
To enhance the children’s reading experience, outings are organised, for example to the libraries and performing shows, which are often a treat to the children who may not have the opportunity to do so.
A dedicated space (e.g. a room/area with storage facilities) is usually provided by the supporting organisations to facilitate the reading programme.

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
The kidsREAD programme is a nationwide reading programme with reading clubs set in various locations across Singapore.
kidsREAD relies on volunteers to drive the reading programme on the ground. Anyone aged 15 years and above with time and love for reading is welcome to join the programme as volunteers. This has drawn people from all walks of life, including students, parents, working adults and retirees to become volunteers for the programme.
Volunteers are trained in basic storytelling skills so that they are equipped with the relevant skills to conduct the programme. Storybooks, guidebooks with lesson plans, stationery and other resources are also provided to facilitate the setting up of a reading club and lessen the load of volunteers so that they can concentrate on executing the programme.

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
Synergising resources from various partners
kidsREAD is a collaborative community initiative. Each partner brings its strengths to the programme to enable a more effective outreach in terms of setting up more reading clubs and building the pool of volunteers.

Utilising Volunteers
Getting volunteers onboard the programme helps to lessen manpower cost and at the same time, build a spirit of volunteerism within the community.

Offering the programme for free
kidsREAD is offered at no cost to the children who fulfil the income criteria specified for the programme. As such, it becomes attractive to low-income families to enrol their children, who may be reluctant or slow readers, to the programme.
Provision of training and materials
The provision of structured guidebooks with lesson plans, stationery, craft materials and pre-selected storybooks allows the volunteers to focus on the smooth delivery of each reading session. Volunteers are also equipped with the required skills to execute their roles competently with training in storytelling and reading aloud.
Using a fun, holistic and experiential learning approach
kidsREAD entails a holistic approach to learning where reading is made to be fun. Engaging the children to develop an affinity for reading is accomplished by a combination of storytelling and supplementary activities ranging from craftwork, dramatisation and singing songs relating to the story.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   National Library Board
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Lai Lin Kiang
Title:   Director  
Telephone/ Fax:   +65 6342 4261
Institution's / Project's Website:
Address:   278 Marine Parade Road
Postal Code:   449282
City:   Singapore
State/Province:   Singapore
Country:   Singapore

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