About a year ago, I was booked to go and visit a number of International Schools in Malaysia…and finally the day came to fly out. It was stifling hot the day I arrived in George Town Penang…with even the local Malaysians complaining about the heat.
But that wasn’t going to stop me from venturing out for dinner to try the local and international cuisines of the Penang Food Festival with the host teachers.
My first stop the next day, was meeting the wonderful teachers and students at St Christopher’s International Primary School. I arrived during World Book Day week. The students were encouraged to dress up as their favourite book character. Even the Principal of the school dressed up, wearing a Gangsta Granny costume from David Walliams’ book.
As I entered the school, I was greeted with walls of creative photographs of ‘Extreme Readers’. One of the things this school did to encourage reading in and outside of school, was to run a reading and photo competition. Each student was asked to take a photo of themselves reading…and the most creative photo would win. There were photos of students reading underwater, reading with turtles, reading on top of a skyscraper in China, reading while surfing in Hawaii, reading upside down and even reading on the toilet. This was such a great way to inspire students to read.
I started my day with storytelling to the Nursery and Reception students. We told stories with dress-ups, puppets and games, and I even taught them to laugh like a Kookaburra! We talked about the importance of reading and building a 'word bank' in your head with the grade 1 and 2 students. We discussed where ideas come from and workshopped ideas with the Grade 3s and 4s. We talked character development with the Grade 5s and introduced some advanced writing techniques with the grade 6 students. To conclude my two days at St Christopher’s International School, I ran a PD session for the teachers about inspiring the reluctant reader. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at this school, before I moved onto the next school to do it all over again.
I then headed north to Uplands- the Penang International School and spent another two days with the students across all the year levels, including another teacher’s PD session. Again, I was made to feel so welcome at this school by the faculty and the students. It was an honour to spend time inspiring students with a love of literature in Malaysia.
Children are the same no matter where they live or where they grow up. Children need books! We all need books. It’s been said, ‘Reading is like oxygen’.
Books are universal. They are for living, lessons and truths. Books can feed us for a lifetime and fill our souls. Books can make us want to live. They are passed between generations. They never get old. They can heal and free us.
The benefits to reading are endless. A 2018 National Literacy Trust study found that children who enjoyed reading were significantly less likely to have mental health problems.
Even Confucius said, “NO MATTER HOW BUSY YOU MAY THINK YOU ARE, YOU MUST FIND TIME FOR READING, OR SURRENDER YOURSELF TO SELF-CHOSEN IGNORANCE.”
And yet, in a world dazzled by the latest gadgets and mesmerized by the internet and video games, the humble book seems like the most ordinary thing that could be—until you learn to look closer … and closer … and closer … and you’re suddenly in a world that only you can imagine.