Make reading a joy not a chore, Hong Kong parents and teachers urged

Charity Bring Me a Book, which has just turned 10 years old, is fighting to change a mentality that is fixated with high school grades

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 May, 2016, 10:02am
UPDATED : Saturday, 28 May, 2016, 3:27pm

A charity has urged parents and teachers to change their mentality and encourage children to read books for pleasure rather than just to achieve higher grades.

Jacqueline Sun, a board member of Bring Me a Book, said: “I think Hong Kong parents realise the importance of reading, but there’s this gap in the culture that we still have to fix.

“Children should not read just to achieve certain results. Reading should be for leisure and pleasure, for the love of learning.”

Bring Me a Book, which marked its 10th anniversary this month, has installed 355 libraries mostly in underresourced areas, serving 150,000 children, and trained over 20,000 parents and teachers over the past decade.

The organisation, which is an affiliate of the Bring Me a Book Foundation in the United States, donates Chinese and English-language books to community centres, kindergartens and schools, while also organising talks, workshops and reading clubs.

Board member Tansy Lau said that one of their main challenges was to convince parents and educators that children should be given time to read story books.

“I think schools realise that you can’t just get the knowledge from homework, textbooks, exams,” she said. “But the reality is that there is only a limited time that the child has after school. So if he spends two to three hours in homework, of course he can’t read that much. We have talked to educators about that,” Lau said.

In the 2011 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study – the latest survey focused on fourth-graders’ reading habits at home and at school – Hong Kong ranked lowest in terms of motivation to read and family literacy out of 43 countries.

Hong Kong reading habits a mixture of fact and fiction

Just 12 per cent of Hong Kong parents or other relatives read to children compared with an international average of 37 per cent. Although Hong Kong children ranked first in a reading test, the report showed they were lowest in interest, confidence and motivation to read.

Lau said with technology occupying more time, the secret was to create reading habits in kids at a very young age.

“If you build up good reading habits when they are young, they will want to read later – whether it is a book or using a Kindle. So we should start reading out loud at a very young age,” Lau said. “If you have this habit with them since babies, they will actually want to read with you. It’s parenting, cuddling time.”

Hong Kong kids can benefit from reading quality books

Bring me a Book has just launched the 2016 edition of the Guide to the Best Chinese Books, a booklist published every two years that aims to help parents and educators choose quality children’s books.

The organisation is also working on a pilot programme to be launched early in 2017 at Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital, where new mothers will be given a set of books and training.