In April and mid-May, we had the chance to organize outings for children from our partner charities to visit the public libraries. Many of the children in the groups had not visited the public library before or had not done more than just walking in and out. We therefore wanted to create a more memorable experience of the library for them.
We were very fortunate to be partners with NLB KidsRead whose very dedicated coordinator helped to make arrangements with the libraries in Jurong West, HarbourFront, and Geylang East for our respective visits. This enabled us to have access to the full suite of activities the libraries has to offer. Also, we received a grant from YoungNTUC for each visit which covered the costs of bringing the children for these outings.
For each of our library visits, we got the volunteers heavily involved in facilitating the experience for our children. As with normal Early Learning Programme (ELP) sessions, we had a 1 volunteer to 1 child ratio. We learnt from the first outing that there were a small handful of children that would avoid encounters with books (because they thought reading was hard and boring… ). Therefore, to help our volunteers to excite these children to read, we provided lucky dip prizes for children who read at least 2 books. We also set aside some time for compulsory reading before letting the children roam around. These strategies worked very well –the children found that reading wasn’t tedious at all (since their volunteer helped them) and they could choose colourful and interactive books about topics that THEY liked.
We also got the volunteers to help the children understand the “mechanics” of a library. They guided the children to use the common computers to search for books or topics the latter were interested in. The volunteers then showed the children how to find the books they wanted from the shelves, using the search results from the computer, such as the author tag and shelf number. We encouraged the children to bring their library cards so that they could borrow books and some did! Those who didn’t were shown how the book borrowing and returning process worked through using a volunteer’s library card.
In addition to reading, we also organized two types of workshops - Nature & Art and Speech & Drama. These workshops allow the children to build or practice important skills such as creativity, expressing emotions, and fine motor work while at the same time, having fun together with their volunteers.
We had Angela Tan from Universe Arts conduct the Nature & Art workshop for two groups of children. In both, she showed the children how even thousands of years ago, art has been made using and on natural materials. The children saw how cave art was done by the aboriginals in Australia and were then encouraged to showcase their creativity by creating their own rock art. They worked with various media – including acrylic paint, crayons, felt, feathers, googly eyes and strings. The children named their finished rocks and these personalised pieces of natural art became their pets, theirs to keep by their bedside and to interact with.
The Speech & Drama with Craft workshop was centred around a favourite children’s story, Oliver Jeffers “Lost and Found”. where a boy tries to bring a “lost” penguin back home to the south pole, only to discover that the penguin really only wanted a friend. Ivan Choong, a professional stage actor, got the children and volunteers to practice expressing and identifying emotions like anger, sadness, happiness before reading the story to the children.
The storytelling was well received and the children, together with their volunteers, acted out various scenes of the story. After the speech & drama segment, the children worked on a Penguin Craft we had developed so that the children could have a new penguin friend, just like the boy in “Lost and Found”. The f