| 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
kidsREAD Milestones (2003 – 2014)
2003- 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.
2004- Official launch of kidsREAD at WRL on 23 April 2004.
•Formation of kidsREAD Advisory and Working Committees.
•18 kidsREAD clubs were set up, reaching out to 630 children and 215 volunteers.
•Received first batch of cash sponsorship from the Singapore Pools and Ministry of Community, Youth and Sports (MCYS) to fund the start-up of kidsREAD Programme (2004 – 2006).
2005- First primary school to run its own kidsREAD club.
•35 reading clubs were set up, reaching out to 1000 children and 330 volunteers.
•Organised 1st anniversary celebration on 23 April 2005 at Jurong Regional Library. The event, graced by Mrs Yu Foo Yen Shoon, Minister of State (MCYS) graduated the first batch of kidsREAD children.
•The syllabus for kidsREAD was revamped to cater much more closely to the needs of the kidsREAD children. The new syllabus was based on a new set of 48 books which were given to the clubs.
2006- 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.
•Organised 2nd anniversary celebration on 23 April 2006 at The Plaza, National Library Building. Mrs Lim Hwee Hua, Minister of State for Transport and Finance, graced the event. Pansing Publisher and Popular Bookstore provided sponsorship of $10.00 book vouchers for the volunteers while Nestle, 3M and Scholastic contributed support-in-kind for items in the goodie bags. A total of 183 children received certificates while 137 volunteers received certificates and bookmarks. The event was attended by close to 1,000 children, parents, volunteers and guests, with students from Chung Cheng High who came forward to volunteer.
•The Singapore Totalisator Board had kindly agreed to continue sponsoring the kidsREAD programme for the next 5 years till March 2012. Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) also provided funding for the next 2 years (till year 2009) under the condition that seniors were recruited as volunteers for kidsREAD.
•A new initiative, Kids2Parents was launched on 29 September in collaboration with SouthWest CDC, Hong Kah North CC and Association of Early Childhood Education Singapore (AECES). The programme aimed to help deepen the parent-child relationship through sharing an activity together and acts as a continuum from kidsREAD.
•kidsREAD children performed special programme for a special visit by the Japanese Emperor.
•Organised MRT Read & Ride whereby kidsREAD children enjoyed storytelling onboard a dedicated MRT train.
2007- Received second batch of cash sponsorship the Singapore Totalisator Board (2007 – 2012).
•Launch of kidsREAD Volunteer Appreciation Day.
•85 reading clubs were set up, reaching out to 2101 children and 814 volunteers.
•kidsREAD children performed programme for special visit by then First Lady (USA), Mrs Laura Bush.
•During Mrs Bush’s visit, the American Ambassador conducted a storytelling session for 40 students from Qifa Primary kidsREAD club and 10 students from Jamiyah Childrens Home on 23 May 2007 at Jurong Regional Library.
•A group of 25 kidsREAD children from Serangoon CC were treated to a special storytelling session at Food Republic’s Foodcourt at Suntec City on 21 July 2007. Professional storyteller Kiran Shah was engaged to conduct the session for the children, made possible by the foodcourt’s management, which had offered the space. The session illustrated that storytelling could be carried out anywhere and at any time.
•For Children’s Day on 1 October and also 6 October, kidsREAD children were treated to an outing to Botanic Gardens. A total of 273 children and 50 volunteers learnt more about plants and had a hands-on workshop on potpourri making.
•On 21 October, PM Lee Hsien Loong and his grassroots leaders visited the kidsREAD Reading Club at Clementi Children’s Library as part of Clementi Community Day. During the visit, PM and his grassroots leaders witnessed a story dramatisation of "The Story of Ping” by Anglo- Chinese Junior College students for 20 kidsREAD children of Clementi CCL and Pei Tong Primary School. PM and his grassroots leaders enjoyed the session and were impressed by the development of kidsREAD.
•A group of 350 children and 100 volunteers from 14 kidsREAD clubs participated in the annual MRT Read & Ride event held on 25th November. After the train ride, participants travelled to the National Museum where they were entertained by Talespinners and toured the museum. Volunteers, children and their parents enjoyed the unique event, which celebrated the joy of storytelling.
2008- Received cash sponsorship the Ministry of Finance.
•94 reading clubs were set up, reaching out to 2,264 children and 1,005 volunteers.
•Organised Read & Ride at Singapore Flyer with storytelling treats on board the flyer on 23 November 2008.
2009- 109 reading clubs were set up, reaching out to 2,802 children and 1,006 volunteers.
•kidsREAD children performed programmes for the special visit by APEC delegates.
2010- 120 reading clubs were set up, reaching out to 3,007 children and 1,172 volunteers.
2011- 129 reading clubs were set up, reaching out to 3,403 children and 1,264 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 of 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.)
2012- Reviewed 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 Clubs. Received feedback and improve on the programme content.
•Met 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.
•kidsREAD Clubs participated in the 10,000 & More Fathers Reading Carnival at Singapore Marina Barrage.
2013- Launch of new curriculum in Jan/Feb 13 at all kidsREAD Clubs
•Formation of Junior Clubs (4-6 years old) and Senior Clubs( 7 -8 years old) were implemented at all kidsREAD Club.
•Started the preparatory work for kidsREAD longitudinal study, Pre-and-Post Surveys.
2014- Implemented Pre-Survey on kidsREAD children between February and May 2014.
•Implemented Post-Survey on kidsREAD children between September and December 2014.
•Celebrated kidsREAD’s 10th anniversary on 4 October 2014 with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as the Guest-of-Honour. He had officiated kidsREAD’s inauguration back in 2004.
•Here’s the links to Prime Minister Lee’s storytelling to the kidsREAD children as part of the anniversary celebration.
And the kidsREAD’s 10th anniversary commemorative video and photo montage
•Photo Montage: http://youtu.be/vFIJoEBoDbM
•Commemorative Video: http://youtu.be/WM18hXj7KbI
| 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
Mooted by Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, then Singapore Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports (now Minister for Communications and Information), kidsREAD leveraged on the strengths of various community partners and corporate sponsors to create and sustain this reading programme. It promotes a love for reading, cultivates good reading habits and provides an avenue for children from various races to interact from an early age.
The kidsREAD Advisory Committee comprises representatives from the People’s Association and the 5 community self-help groups provide support and advice on the programme while NLB serves as the kidsREAD Secretariat.
The kidsREAD Secretariat helmed by the NLB develops the “reading infrastructure” by providing its relevant expertise (content design of reading curriculum for children aged 4 to 6 and 7 to 8, it’s not one size fits all), selection of recommended storybooks and training to volunteers as storytellers) and materials (resource guides, craft materials and stationery). In addition, NLB offers a common platform for the targeted parents/grandparents/guardians/caregivers to have a better understanding of the type of complimentary resources, programmes and literacy related activities available at its network of 25 public libraries that could value-add to the literacy diet of their children.
The kidsREAD Working Committee which comprises the volunteer coordinators provides a platform to address key issues concerning the club operations and exchange of 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 appointed staff from the agency which is running the kidsREAD club.
Volunteer-Readers are the lifeline of the kidsREAD Clubs located island-wide. Volunteers aged 15 years and above who have a passion for reading and working with children are continually recruited to conduct the kidsREAD programme for the less-privileged children aged 4 to 8. They will receive basic training on storytelling skills and techniques to conduct the kidsREAD reading session before they are assigned to the Clubs.
A suite of Comprehensive Training Materials comprises of 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 curriculum 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. Other activities such as project month, library visit and learning journey are encouraged to enhance their reading experience.
Strong Community Involvement formed the backbone of kidsREAD network in Singapore. It started off with just the setting up of kidsREAD 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 kidsREAD Clubs within their own organisations. Today, the clubs are located in community clubs, pre-and-primary schools, family service centres and volunteer welfare organisations. 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 the less-privileged children with easy-accessible kidsREAD Clubs near their home.
| 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
Human Resource: kidsREAD is a 100% volunteer-driven reading programme targeted at less-privileged children aged 4 to 8. 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. Volunteers are trained by professional storytellers in skills for verbal reading and conducting of a reading programme. 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, guidebooks, craft and stationery are customised or purchased for the reading clubs to ensure volunteers and children have access to the necessary resources.
To enhance the children’s reading experience, outings are organised to the libraries, learning journeys and performances, which are often a treat to the children who may not have the opportunity to do so.
Infrastructure: A dedicated space (eg a common function room/area with storage facilities) is usually provided by the supporting organisations to facilitate the reading programme and club activities.
| 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
NLB started with the modest goal of reaching 2,000 children over the span of three years. Over the last 10 years, more than 1,000 clubs were formed and reached out to more than 27,000 less-privileged children.
2.kidsREAD has made a real difference in children’s lives
One of the oldest “graduates” of kidsREAD is Philbert Lim, who is 18 years old this year. He was in kidsREAD’s pioneer batch of participants in 2004. Philbert said he cherishes his time with kidsREAD, and that the English skills he picked up continued to help him through his secondary school years. Philbert is now a second-year student at Singapore Polytechnic. NLB has no doubt his time spent with the volunteers, and the books he discovered through kidsREAD, had an impact on his academic accomplishment.
Two recent “graduates” of kidsREAD are Majeed and Naqeed. These siblings could not attend kindergarten because of the challenging situation in their home. But thanks to kidsREAD, they learned how to read and both of them are avid readers today. Both of them double up as youth volunteers to guide the younger kidsREAD children now.
Another child who inspires us is 8 year old Saajidah Yusro binte Abdul who has a physical condition. This did not stop her from attending the weekly kidsREAD sessions, accompanied by her mother. She has grown to be a book lover is now doing well in her studies.
NLB is very encouraged by these young people and their learning progress. It would continually looking at ways to enhance the kidsREAD programme.
3. Expansion of kidsREAD Programme from one year to five years
Over the last 10 years, kidsREAD has reached out to more than 27,000 children. Teachers have observed that children who have participated in kidsREAD had improved language skills, and were better at articulating their thoughts confidently in school. To nurture and sustain the reading habit of young children from pre-school into their early primary school years, NLB expanded the kidsREAD curriculum from one to five years in 2013. Children who join at 4 years of age can continue with the programme until they are 8 years old.
(Note: According to NLB’s in-house survey conducted in 2012 and 2013 respectively, 86% and 82% of teachers reported improvements in kidsREAD participants’ self-esteem respectively.)
4. Cash Sponsorship
More than SGD$7million of cash sponsorship was secured over the years. The sponsors were:
• Singapore Pools Pte Ltd
• Singapore Totalisator Board
• Kinokuniya Bookstore
• Ministry of Community, Youth & Sports
• Ministry of Finance
• Ministry of Foreign Affairs
• The Library Fund
• Singapore Buddhist Lodge
• South West Community Development Council
5. Strong Volunteer support
Volunteers are the lifeline of the kidsREAD Programme with a set-up of 184 clubs in 2013. With an average of 5 volunteers allocated per club and they contribute 15 volunteering hours per week, more than 80,000 volunteering hours garnered in 2013.
| 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
Between 2005 and 2012, kidsREAD Secretariat has been conducting annual in-house surveys on how much the children enjoy reading. The focuses were:
• Increase in reading interest
• Borrow books from the libraries
• Reading during free time
• Increase in usage of English
• Positive self-esteem
• Improvement in reading skills
Since NLB embarked on a 5-year kidsREAD programme for children aged 4 onward in 2013, it is timely to conduct a longitudinal study to track the reading habit of the children.
The primary objective of the longitudinal study is to measure the effectiveness of kidsREAD after adopting a 5-year curriculum programme in 2013. It aims to determine the impact in terms of:
• Inculcating the love of reading and cultivating good reading habits, and
• Attaining basic reading skills in English
The secondary objectives include: Identify programme’s strengths and areas for improvement, and measure the impact in increasing children’s confidence/ self-esteem.
The Phase 1 of the longitudinal study aims to conduct a Pre-survey of children at the start of 2014 as well as a Post-survey of children at the end of 2014. The preliminary result is targeted to be ready by the first half of 2015.
The survey is now conducted by an external consultant. The National Institute of Education provided the questionnaire and tools appropriate for children aged 4-8 years old to evaluate their current level of reading skills. These include:
• Reading Attitude Scale
• Non-Reading Picture Vocabulary Scale
• Word Recognition Test / Test of Reading Experience
• Reader Self-Perception
An annual budget of SGD$70,000 has been set aside between 2014 and 2016 to conduct the survey. This is to ensure that NLB continues to track the progress of kidsREAD participants over time and evaluate the effectiveness of the programme to meet future challenges.
| 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
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 note a 20% drop-out rate in every group of 20-25 children at the kidsREAD 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 who were working long hours or fighting for ends-meet are not able to bring them to the clubs regularly.
Measures Introduced: Despite these challenges, kidsREAD programme 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. Starting from 2015, the annual kidsREAD volunteer appreciation event would be integrated with the NLB’s Friends of the Library Appreciation Event to create a greater impact on volunteer engagement and retention.
• 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.