A very good evening to all of you. I am very happy to join you once again at the AFCC. Just now I have been introduced as wearing several hats. Indeed I feel very honoured to be involved in education and in the promotion of bilingualism in Singapore. I think many of you are already very familiar with Singapore but for the benefit of those who don’t quite know what bilingualism in Singapore means, it really means promoting the study of not just English in our schools, but also our Mother Tongue Languages – Chinese, Malay and Tamil. I hope to be able to do a small part in helping our authors become more widely-read and in particular in our four languages. This is my second year at the event, and I do feel very encouraged to see so many writers and illustrators here who are dedicated to creating and preserving content relevant to Asian culture and heritage. Your efforts will ensure that our children can benefit from stories and characters that they can identify with.
Reading is an excellent way to anchor a love for languages. Through stories, authors and illustrators inspire children, spark their imagination and embed values that guide them along their learning journeys in life. Parents can help to nurture children’s love for reading and interest in the learning of languages by reading to them regularly. With this in mind, it is important to support our parents and teachers by providing useful methods and resources that they can use to encourage children to read.
At this year’s Festival, the Lee Kuan Yew Fund for Bilingualism has sponsored a series of free public programmes related to language learning, such as selecting picture books, storytelling and creating stories for teachers, parents and children at our regional libraries. I am heartened to know that the response to these programmes has been very positive. I hope that parents, teachers and children will benefit from these programmes.
Early exposure to languages is important in laying a strong foundation for bilingual learning in later years. The Fund is therefore very excited to partner the National Book Development Council of Singapore (NBDCS) to expand the pool of locally-developed bilingual titles for our teachers and parents to use. Having teaching and learning resources set in a local context is important as children respond and relate better to content that is familiar to them. The Fund has supported the publication of six bilingual picture books by NBDCS. Three were published last year and I’m happy to launch three more books in the three official Mother Tongue Languages this evening. These will be made available to the public at this Festival. I am hopeful that the Fund’s efforts towards developing bilingual resources will help to engage children.
I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the book council for all the planning and work you have put into the organisation of this year’s Festival to encourage more local authors and illustrators to share their works with the community. It is definitely my hope that we can further our collaboration between the Fund and the Council so that more and more of our authors and our illustrators can be read in the four languages.
Thank you very much.