Inculcating reading as a habit
NLB adds activities tied to books to complement its Reading Corners at the Senior Activity Centres.
BY: Eleanor Yap
To encourage seniors to pursue lifelong learning and reading, the National Library Board (NLB) has introduced a newly created value-added programme to introduce selected books to seniors and impart new skills to them with the help of library materials.
This programme, which includes activities such as paper cutting and origami, was launched earlier this year first at the Thye Hua Kwan Senior Services (THKSS) @ Taman Jurong and complements the NLB Reading Corner there. Held every quarter of the year, each session sees over 20 seniors. Currently, islandwide, there are 11 Senior Activity Centres (SACs) that have Reading Corners and six of these including several NTUC Health SilverACE SACs have the value-added programmes.
Minister for Communications and Information, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, who visited THKSS recently and engaged in the second session of the value-added programme, called NLB’s initiative a “wonderful effort” to bring reading to seniors and he shared that he would like to see more like this islandwide. He shared that it is about building a community of readers, adding “Reading is a habit that you can do things together and can help bring together communities and keep seniors engaged. … Reading is not just for the young but for all ages.”
The value-added programme’s activity ties back to the books. According to Joanna Zhang, head, Seniors, Content & Services, NLB, the initiative “brings the library experience closer to the seniors and makes it convenient”. Currently, she explained that NLB librarians conduct the activity but they are looking into having volunteers take over in the future.
THKSS @ Taman Jurong has a membership of 1,030 seniors, with a daily attendance of approximately 60 seniors. The NLB Reading Corner there has a collection of 500 books, containing fiction and non-fiction titles, and the collection is renewed quarterly. There is also a thematic focus for the non-fiction section with curated themes such as Health & Wellness, Travel, Self-Help and more. The collection also includes about 33 percent of books with large print and a small collection of Folktales & Myths, which seniors can use to read with their grandchildren.
Sixty-eight-year-old Yang Yip Kum is happy to have access to the NLB Reading Corner. She not only takes part in the activities at THKSS @ Taman Jurong everyday and teaches the seniors once a week activities like drawing and calligraphy, but she also borrows books, in particular those dealing with sewing, cooking and painting. The grandmother of four shared that she borrowed a painting book from the Reading Corner and created a picture of a cat and a monkey on a tree using coffee powder, a technique she learnt from the community centre. She has also created a handphone pouch from reading a sewing book, and occasionally gets ideas from the Chinese cookbooks.
Yang said, “I come here and make many new friends from different races and learn many things.”
Chindamani Vadivel, 69, also has benefitted from the Reading Corner at THKSS as when she is free, she drops by. She is interested in photography, Tamil books and videotapes, and cooking, and likes the fact that there are large print books. The grandmother of five also attends the value-added programmes. “I make new friends and find it convenient. … Reading keeps the mind active.”
Other NLB programmes for seniors
Besides the value-added programmes, NLB has also started a new interest group for seniors earlier this year called “Lim Kopi, Let’s Talk!” so they can discuss current happenings in Singapore. Seniors can pick up useful health tips, share interesting recipes, and find out where and how to get news online via NLB’s eNewspapers whilst enjoying a cup of coffee or tea provided by NLB. The group meets monthly at the Toa Payoh Public Library and there are currently about eight to 20 seniors who are in the group. To register for the group, go to the library ekiosks or www.nlb.gov.sg/golibrary.
These new programmes add to the other existing senior-related programmes offered by NLB, including the Time of your Life programme, which focuses on developing seniors into readers for life, as well as provides valuable knowledge about ageing well; Silver Infocomm Junction and Silver Infocomm Hotspots (a collaboration with IDA), which offers seniors space to discover and access digital information and resources through courses; and book clubs and learning communities for seniors such as the Taxi Shifu, the Chinese Seniors Reading Club, and the Friends Reading Club.