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When was the last time you read……a BOOK?

March 5, 2019

As a mom, our time is usually robbed by daily household chores, the antics of our children and for some – a day job!

Perhaps “being robbed” is too harsh in this context, considering that these duties are actually rewarding and worthwhile, down to the very last strand. I think many can agree however, that it’s often a tricky task to squeeze in time in our hectic schedules for something that was once such a luxury – our hobbies!

For book worms, the smell of a library book is the ultimate euphoria. Remember that scene in Beauty and Beast when Belle discovers the castle’s enormous library? That’s how we feel too.

A trip to the book store is always a pleasant experience that can last hours just sitting in the fiction aisle. Not too mention, a hefty sum at the cash register! To us, the money spent is not merely on books. It’s spent for adventures and quests in places that may or may not even exist in the real world. But with the power of books, ANYTHING possible.

(Side note: That’s why the Harry Potter series was such a hit!)

Indulging in a storybook can make you forget about the hustle and bustle of life, without even leaving your bedroom. I remember when I was younger, the thought of coming home from school every day was a thrill because it meant reading time! (After homework and studying, of course.) My all-time favourite was The Baby-Sitters Club series by Ann M. Martin. I could read the same book over and over again.  It was such a great series, it was turned into a movie. I even got a chance to meet her in person during a book-signing meet and greet!

While in school abroad, the culture of reading was instilled by various efforts. Let me give you some examples:

i) An Awesome Library
The school had a beautiful library, with thousands of books stacked from floor to ceiling. Each class would go to the library once a week for a storytelling session and for borrowing books. This is where my interest for reading books outloud was ignited. I loved how the librarian read the books, with full expression and passion. She had a rocking chair and we would all sit on a carpeted area. The reading corner was made comfortable and appealing, to help students get into the art of reading and listening.

Today, it has helped me acquire the skill of storytelling. I used to conduct a weekly children’s workshop where storytelling was one of the highlights. Every week, I would choose a book or two from my own collection, based on the theme of the week. Kids want to see different emotions, different tones of voices and different body movements. I learnt that mere reading can easily bore them out. Kids, as we know, have a short attention span. It’s important to be able to capture their attention when most needed.

ii) Drop Everything and READ!
We would have our usual fire drill (and even tornado drill, where I lived!) where we would need to literally drop everything and run for safety. Under a similar sense of urgency, the school had also implemented a “Drop Everything and Read” session where an announcement would be made throught the intercom and the whole school would need to stop what they’re doing – to read!

iii) Read in your spare time
Teachers would constantly encourage us to read a storybook (as opposed to school textbooks and such) after completing an exercise in class, whilst waiting for others to finish. It taught us the value of time too, that we should always use it wisely. After a while, it became a habit to plop out a good book to read, the second there’s spare time.

I come from a family who loves to read. My parents have their own reading corner, strategically placed near the front door, greeting guests with an ambience of infinite knowledge. My childhood collection of books are still in our possession, carefully packed and preserved by my mom. Now, these books will be inherited by my kids and hopefully too, the passion of reading!

Speaking of ‘inheritance’, books are not the only hand-me-downs. Toys received from McDonald’s Happy Meals, which easily dates back more than 20 years ago (I’m so old!), have now been added to my children’s chest of treasure.aa

Delightfully so, McDonald’s is now making BOOKS part of their Happy Meals!

When you order a Happy Meal, you can either choose a toy or a book to accompany the food. They’ve partnered with Cressida Cowell, whom you may have heard of from the bestselling How to Train Your Dragon series.

From my experience as a children’s workshop coordinator (and as a mom!), no matter what the gender, kids just have this natural fascination for dinosaurs. I’ve even seen really, really young toddlers who are adept in the topic of dinosaurs and know how to pronounce sophisticated jargons like the names of dinosaur species – all at their fingertips! For this reading campaign, an original book series called Treetop Twins Adventures has been created, which is about a family who goes back in time when dinosaurs still existed, through a time travel machine.

A pop-up version of the book, made for the event launch.

My daughter may be too young to appreciate a story of this level, but she definitely loves the illustrations in the fact pages

The launch of Happy Meal Readers at McDonald’s!

Depending on you and your child’s preference, you can choose either English or Bahasa Malaysia as the medium for the book. The series will be available throughout the year of 2019, with different stories each month. How exciting!

Available in English & Bahasa Malaysia

Quality reading time <3

Cultivating a culture of reading is not merely leading by example or buying all the books there are in the world. We need to understand our child – based on their age, interests and requirements. For toddlers, parents need to be smart in choosing the right books. That’s the phase I’m currently in with my daughter. Not all books are an instant attention-grabber. The Treetop Twins Adventures have an excellent storyboard and is well written for children, but for a 3-year-old particularly, a little nudge to spark that interest for books won’t hurt.

The very reason why McDonald’s is also offering digital versions of the book through the Happy Studio App, which can be downloaded to your phone or tablet. With a little animation and audio (as well as supervised screen time), reading can be more interesting.

When it comes to story time with your kids, here are some of my tips:

SENSORY-FRIENDLY BOOKS

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the good old-fashioned “flat paged” books but when dealing with the younger kids, they will find books that offer a touch and feel experience even more appealing. Books of such may have pop-ups, 2D images or tabs to pull — it all makes reading that much more interesting!

In my opinion, these books are still affordable despite being hardcovers. Go-to stores that offer a wide range of choices for me, are MPH, Popular Book Co (M) Sdn Bhd, BookXcess and Books Kinokuniya Malaysia.

A SIMPLE LANGUAGE

Choose books with simple and lesser words, depending on the age of your child. What’s even better is a book that RHYMES! Reading a story with a poetic twist can add flavour to storytime. You can also tickle your little ones with stories that have inserts of animal noises or expressions, because reading in a stagnant manner could get just a tad too boring!

LOUD AND CLEAR

When you’re storytelling and singing, try your best to be as clear and precise as possible, when it comes to pronunciation. Being a communications person (and TV news presenter), I’m a sucker at speaking correctly. I’ve been guilty at making mistakes, but we are all human! Don’t stress out too much and keep it simple. You don’t have to be a vocal or speech expert to do this, but make sure your child hears and understands you. You surely don’t have to be a good singer either! Just have that confidence, Moms and Dads!

Children’s songs are designed to be simple and easy, but if it requires you to study and memorize the lyrics – do that! It will just take a few rounds of singing along to master this and before you know it, you will be able to guide your children instead of them relying on technology.

RELATE!

Everything you say, read and sing – relate it to a toy and in real life!

When you go to the zoo and see goats (yes, there are goats!),
sing Old Macdonald Had a Farm!

When you see a bus on the road,
hit play to Wheels on the Bus!

When you visit the aquarium,
count your fingers to Once I Caught a Fish Alive!

You catch my drift, right?

As parents, it may be difficult to make time to indulge in the good ol’ chapter book, whether it’s a romance novel, a chic lit or a thriller. It takes a consistent reading pattern to be able to absorb the words effectively and passionately. Picking up a story midway after removing a bookmark that has been idle for so long, may cut you off from the mood of reading. It does for me.

Now, my goal is to resume the habit of reading again.

But how? Not only am I preoccupied with the daily chores of a mother and working part-time, but I always make it a point to create time for fun and play with my two kids!

We have to admit though, technology and the internet have taken over our lives. Due to this fact, I have come up with a probable solution.

Each time I feel the urge to pick up my phone to scroll through social media (and not for work or something urgent), let’s leave it aside and pick up a book instead! We may not be able to avoid frequent interruptions from the kids, but one read page is better than none. By doing this daily, I strongly believe it will set a good example for our children, as we unplug and get whisked away by a good book.

On the same note, I am also taking the initiative to start mengaji again. Thanks to a dear friend, I have found someone who’s also mother to a toddler, to guide me.

Hey moms, let’s not let life get in the way of doing what the heart desires. ❤

WE’VE GOT THIS, LADIES!!!

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