Between the lines: Bring Me A Book Institute
The topics covered when I first started writing this column - why, how and what to read aloud to children - appear basic and intuitive. But even I was surprised at how much I learned about the subject after becoming involved with the charity Bring Me A Book Hong Kong, although I fancied myself a bit of an expert.
I sat in on some of the free workshops that it provides to parents in underprivileged communities. Bring Me A Book hires some of the best trainers in this city, and I gained new knowledge about parent-child reading even though I have been reading aloud daily to my children since they were a few months old.
When I told my friends about these workshops, they expressed interest. But they were disappointed that the sessions were only available to parents who belonged to the social service centres that Bring Me A Book supported.
So I'm delighted to share the news that the Bring Me A Book Institute has been established to provide quality workshops for parents, grandparents, teachers and librarians on a regular basis. Its inaugural term, which will run for six weeks, starts in October.
The idea came as a result of a surge in interest for training workshops from a new audience - highly educated parents from middle-class families. The institute aims to provide these parents with the skills to help ignite their child's love of reading. It also hopes to create an alternative and sustainable revenue source for its non-profit work of bringing books and training to underprivileged communities.
Adults who are new to reading aloud with children may be particularly interested in "First teachers training", a workshop based on the concept that parents are their children's first teachers.
There is a range of new classes for anyone interested in reading with children, including "Writing books with your children" and "Your storytelling voice".
The institute's lead trainer, Julie Fowlkes, is a reading specialist from the United States, with more than 40 years of experience in early childhood literacy and language development. In addition, there are workshops run by specialist trainers fluent in Cantonese and Putonghua.
The institute also plans to expand into other child development areas, such as providing life skills for children to make them more independent and thoughtful.
Work-life balance, and reducing stress and anxiety levels for adults and children is another issue many of us face. So the institute has invited Professor Mark Williams, head of the Mindfulness Centre at Oxford University, to run a series of talks and workshops for working professionals and parents in November.
Hopefully, the institute will gain enough community support to establish a permanent walk-in centre one day that can provide professional training and consultation for parents, and naturally, a well-stocked library.
The institute's full programme can be found on the Bring Me A Book Hong Kong website, bringmeabook.org.hk
Annie Ho is board chairperson of Bring Me A Book Hong Kong, a non-profit organisation devoted to improving children's literacy through reading aloud to them.