READ! Singapore



READ! Singapore is a nationwide campaign organised by the National Library Board (NLB) that aims to promote a reading culture among Singaporeans. An annual event since its inception in 2005, READ! Singapore features book discussions and related activities like film screenings, performances, meet-the-author sessions, workshops and reading marathons, all of which are organised around a particular theme and reading list.1

Background and objectives
In 2003, the National Library Board carried out a survey involving 1,500 participants to find out more about the reading habits of Singaporeans. The survey results showed that only 52 percent of respondents read solely for leisure rather than for studies or work-related reasons. The survey findings prompted NLB to start a nationwide campaign, known as READ! Singapore, to promote a reading culture among Singaporeans.2


The campaign was modeled after successful reading initiatives such as the One City, One Book movements in Brisbane, Australia, and Chicago, Houston and Seattle in the United States. While these movements placed a single book at the heart of city-wide discussions and events, the focus of READ! Singapore was expanded to include a wide range of book titles that were chosen based on a particular theme.3

Besides promoting a reading culture, the READ! Singapore campaign also seeks to help Singaporeans develop critical thinking skills, nurture their creativity and express themselves through varied activities such as story dramatisations and book discussions. In addition, the campaign is aligned to support government efforts at promoting community bonding through communal reading sessions, facilitated book discussions and other broad-based social activities. The overall objective of the annual campaign has been to nurture a nation of informed thinkers.4

Inaugural READ! Singapore
The theme for the inaugural READ! Singapore campaign in 2005 was Coming of Age, which was in line with Singapore’s 40th year of independence. The campaign was opened by Minister for Education Tharman Shanmugaratnam on 24 May 2005 at the Woodlands Regional Library and lasted for 10 weeks.5


The reading list for the campaign consisted of 12 fiction books written in one of the four official languages of Singapore: English, Malay, Mandarin and Tamil. To help promote Singapore literature, at least one book by a local author was included in the reading list. Local book titles selected include Colin Cheong’s Tangerine, Han Han’s 7-Eleven Kuang Xiang Qu (Love at the Convenience Store), Isa Kamari’s Satu Bumi (One Earth) and D. Jeyakanthan’s Sila Nerangalil Sila Manithargal (Some People at Some Moments).6

Readers were encouraged to read any of the books in the reading list over the 10-week period of the campaign. They were also prompted to share their opinions on the books they had read at formal settings such as book clubs and book discussion groups, or at informal gatherings with family and friends.7

Some 190 events were organised in conjunction with the campaign and more than 13,000 people took part in the book discussions, film screenings, performances, workshops with authors and a 12-hour reading marathon. The events were held at various locations throughout Singapore such as bookstores, community clubs, libraries, cafes and food courts.8

The participants were made up of Singaporeans from all walks of life and educational backgrounds, including students, professionals, housewives, taxi drivers and members of parliament. Some 80 schools also took part in the activities.

Themes, activities and strategies
Since its launch in 2005, READ! Singapore has been organised around a different theme each year in order to target a specific demographic and genre of literature. The campaign has also generated spin-off activities such as flash fiction writing contests,9 and inspired the creation of book clubs such as the Taxi Sifu Book Club and the Hairdressers’ Reading Club.10 For the 2012 campaign, a Young Readers’ selection was started to engage young readers between the ages of 7 and 14.11 MobileRead, an application for accessing selected literary works while on the move, was also introduced that year to engage digital users.12


Timeline
24 May 2005: The inaugural READ! Singapore campaign was launched with the theme “Coming of Age” to spur reflections on society, relationships and self.13
2006: The campaign theme Looking In, Looking Out aimed to encourage better understanding of oneself and others by reflecting on perspectives of life.14
2007: The campaign theme Ties that Bind addressed racial harmony and bonding issues, with a focus on healthcare workers and civil servants as target groups.15
2008: The campaign theme Home and Away invited reflection on belonging and rootedness and targeted professionals in the service and hospitality sectors.16
2009: The campaign theme Dreams and Choices encouraged people to remain focused on their goals despite economic uncertainty. A reading marathon was organised and succeeded in setting an official record.17
2010: The campaign theme Roads Less Travelled targeted those who pursued their passions through unconventional paths in life. Poetry was added to the list of suggested works for the first time.18
2011: The campaign theme Transitions invited participants to explore different experiences at life’s varying stages and to reflect on the nature of these changes.19
2012: The campaign theme Bridges called for the celebration of linkages across cultural backgrounds and overcoming adversity in life. A Young Readers selection was included for the first time. The MobileRead software was also launched.20
2013: The campaign theme Under One Sky encouraged exploration of what it meant to be a part of a family and community. The campaign was extended from the usual three months to a year-long line-up of activities.21



Author

Lim Siew Kim & Kenneth Goh



References
1. National Library Board. (n.d). About Us. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/readsingapore; Kwok, Y. (2005, May 25). Reading doesn’t have to be a pain. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Kwok, Y. (2005, May 25). Reading doesn’t have to be a pain. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Yap, P. (2005, May 25). Come on Singapore – READ! Today, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Tom, K. (2006, May 18). Help yourself to literature. The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Kwok, Y. (2005, May 25). Reading doesn’t have to be a pain. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Kwok, Y. (2005, May 25). Reading doesn’t have to be a pain. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. National Library Board launches nationwide reading project. (2005, May 25). Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved from Factiva.
8. Lim, R. (2005). Coming of age: Planting a new seed. Singapore: National Library Board, p. 15, 29. Call no.: RSING 028.9095957 LIM-[LIB]; Kwok, Y. (2005, May 25). Reading doesn’t have to be a pain. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Yap, P. (2005, May 25). Come on Singapore – READ!. Today, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. National Library Board Singapore. (2012, June 15). READ! Singapore 2012 “Bridges” young readers and mobile users [Press Release]. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/News/tabid/102/articleid/102/category/Media%20Releases/parentId/121/year/2012/Default.aspx
10. Tom, K. (2005, July 27). Read between the lanes. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Ong, S. B. (2006, May 28). Elements of style. The Straits Times, p. L25. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. National Library Board Singapore. (2012, May 31). Embracing diversity with reading [Press Release]. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/News/tabid/102/articleid/107/category/Media%20Releases/parentId/121/year/2012/Default.aspx
12. National Library Board Singapore. (2012, June 15). READ! Singapore 2012 “Bridges” young readers and mobile users [Press Release]. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/News/tabid/102/articleid/102/category/Media%20Releases/parentId/121/year/2012/Default.aspx

13. Kwok, Y. (2005, May 25). Reading doesn’t have to be a pain. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Tom, K. (2006, May 18). Help yourself to literature. The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Yap, S. (2008, May 22). Have books will travel. The Straits Times, p. 77. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Yap, S. (2008, May 22). Have books will travel. The Straits Times, p. 77. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Ong, C. (2009, July 7) Reading campaign a real page turner. The Straits Times, p. 29. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Yeo, C. (2010, May 15). Don’t just read, listen and watch. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva; Ramesh, S. (2010, May 27). Literary works selected for READ! Singapore 2010. Today, p. 24. Retrieved from Factiva.
19. National Library Board. (2011). Past Collections. Retrieved from Read Singapore website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/readsingapore/home/collection/transitions-2011
20. National Library Board Singapore. (2012, May 31). Embracing diversity with reading [Press Release]. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/News/tabid/102/articleid/107/category/Media%20Releases/parentId/121/year/2012/Default.aspx; National Library Board Singapore. (2012, June 15). READ! Singapore 2012 “Bridges” young readers and mobile users [Press Release]. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/News/tabid/102/articleid/102/category/Media%20Releases/parentId/121/year/2012/Default.aspx

21. Ministry of Communications and Information. (2013, June 7) Speech by Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Communications and Information, at the launch of READ! Singapore 2013 on Friday, 7 June 2013, 10am at Jurong Regional Library [Press Release] Retrieved from Ministry of Communications and Information website: http://www.mci.gov.sg/web/corp/press-room/categories/speeches/content/launch-of-read-singapore-2013



Further resources

Let Singaporeans READ! your favourite book. (2007, December 28). Today, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

READ! Singapore: Resource kit 2007. (2007). Singapore: National Library Board.
(Call no.: RSING 028.9095957 REA-[LIB])

Shetty, D. (2009, July 10). 6 days of reading. The Straits Times, p. 57. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 14 June 2013 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
READ! Singapore
Reading

All Rights Reserved. National Library Board Singapore 2013.