Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Launch of READ! Singapore

A press conference was held on 24 May 05 to announce the launch of READ! Singapore.

The idea behind READ! Singapore isn't unique. It's been successfully tried out in cities like Brisbane, Chicago, Houston and Seattle. Click here for more examples of the "One-Book" reading projects.

READ SG launch 240505-e
(Minister Tharman officiates the launch. Next to him is Mr Isa Kamari, author of "Satu Bumi".)

But one uniquely Singaporean aspect is that we have not one but 12 books -- three books in each of the four official languages. It's reflective of the multi-cultural aspect of our society.

READ SG launch 240505 - Performances
At the official launch today, at Woodlands Regional Library, we were treated to four individual performances inspired by excerpts from the books. Each performance was based on one book from each language, and performed in that respective language.

The English performance, the audience understood perfectly. The Chinese performance I could understand, as with those who speak Mandarin. The Malay and Tamil performance, I didn't understand the words but I understood the emotions being conveyed. The performances was brilliant and made me wish there were English translations of the books on hand.

The overall theme for this year's project is “Coming of Age”, meaning "any life experience that brings one to a deeper understanding of reality and ourselves".

Sitting there watching the performance, I thought Singapore has, in many ways, come of age. When Singapore achieved Independence in 1965, some 40 years ago, who would've imagined Singaporeans sitting through performances done in a language other than their own?

Were today's guests being polite? Or they had no choice because Minister of Education was seated at the front? I guess the answer depends on whether you are a cynic or not.

There are some people (even my own colleagues) who say READ! Singapore wouldn't work. "Singaporeans are too busy to find time", or "We just don't have a reading culture" or "It's another unimaginative government campaign"...

I suppose the answer depends on whether we see the glass half-full or half-empty.
READ SG launch 240505

This project may be NLB-initiated, but it's not FOR the NLB -- it's for Singapore.

Wah, sounds so noble and grandiose. But heck, I'm not afraid to admit it.

Personally, the project is more than promoting a culture of reading. It's about using books as a focus -- to connect people to different people/ ideas/ perspectives. One can read the same book and have different views. Or we share in similar thoughts.

To take part in this project, you can attend the public programmes, or gather your own friends to discuss the book (send me a picture to post in my blog, or post in your blog and send me the link).

If you are overseas, nothing to stop you from posting comments and sharing online. At least two of the English books should be accessible in overseas bookstores. I'd be happy to share more ideas with you via email.

READ! Singapore is a good "excuse" for strangers to talk to strangers.

Just like blogging.


1 comment:

  1. Just found LISNews.com having a link to our READ!Singapore. Here's the story.


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