1. Your three children were fluent readers before Primary One. How did you do it?
“All my kids were reading by age four. But I did not enroll them in special reading enrichment classes. Instead, I read to them, and with them. We have never had a TV at home because I personally find it a waste of time. When we married, we did not get one. And when the children came along, we didn’t see the need to install a TV to entertain them.”
“For your kids to enjoy reading, show them that you enjoy reading yourself. And not just for practical benefits, like doing well in school. I’ve never told my kids, “You must learn to read so you can get good grades in school.” That makes it just another thing they must tick off their list! Show them you see reading as a lifelong skill that goes beyond achieving good grades. It’s more important to convey the message that reading is fun, exciting and amazing!”
2. You write different books for four different levels of reading competency; how can parents assess their own child’s level? And why does it matter?
“Reading at the right age helps a child gain confidence, and it gives them a sense of discovery. You want to challenge them just enough so they learn and feel proud – but not so much that they are completely overwhelmed.”
“So if a child is just learning to sound out words, and blend words together, it’s good to start with Level 1 and 2 books. By Level 3, the vocabulary and sentence structures become more complex. But these reading levels are not about a child’s age – they are more of a rough guide for parents, so they can track the process of their kid’s independent reading.”
3. How can parents use these books to ensure their children are confident readers before the start Primary 1?
“Encourage your kids to read. And help them understand how what they learn in books relates to life. That’s why we also developed companion Activity Books so your child’s learning is reinforced through doing the interactive puzzles and games. The Activity Books were done in partnership with Lorna Whiston Schools, who are experienced at providing English language reading, writing and speech and drama programmes in Singapore.”
4. In the Timmy & Tammy books the kids visit well-known attractions in Singapore such as the Singapore Zoo and Chinatown – how does this help kids learn to read?
“Kids connect better with books when they can see themselves in them. Many parents have shared with me that although their kids are normally hyperactive or reluctant readers, when they pick up a Timmy & Tammy book, they read it over and over again. This is because they can ‘see’ themselves in the book – they recognise the locations, landmarks and icons. Timmy & Tammy are Singaporean kids, just like them.”
5. What's your number one advice to parents who want their kids to love reading and books?
“Show them you love reading. Put down your mobile phones and other smart devices now and then. Talk to them. Read to them. Let them read to you. Let them see you reading as part of your own recreation and relaxation. Children follow the examples of their parents. So if they see you enjoying a good book, chuckling or nodding, underlining or discussing it with a friend, they’ll pick up that books to stimulate thought and laughter.”
“Reading a book on a tablet is fine, but there are so many other distractions available on your tablet. For kids, there is something about the tactile nature of a physical book that enhances the reading experience – they can flip the pages back and forth and look at the pictures.”