In the days of the not so distant past, when kids didn’t have easy access to electronic tablets like they do today, reading used to be most kids’ favorite (and default) pastime. I, for one, grew up as a bookworm and I would devour book after book, transported to imaginary worlds and spellbound by the words floating off the pages.
Back in those days, there wasn’t as much to do for a kid. Or maybe it’s just me who went through a bland blur of going to school, coming home for remedial tuition, followed by homework and that’s that. Very little television and not much social interaction with anybody outside of school. For the curious, for seven years I grew up in a homestay sans my parents, so while it wasn’t a regimented environment, from one day to the next there wasn’t much to be excited about either. The books were my companions and they offered me a form of escape from the mundane daily humdrum.
Reading is still something that I enjoy these days, although not as much as I’d like to. And I mean books, not magazines or online news feed. I was bingeing on self-help, know-how volumes and non-fiction for several years, but these days I’m back to fiction again because I miss the escapism, fantasy and adventure.
The Singapore Memory Project (SMP), a whole-of-nation movement that aims to capture and document precious moments and personal memories of Singapore, has launched “Books That Moved Me” campaign – an initiative that trigger memories about the joy of reading and books. I agreed to participate in this campaign because reading has played a very big part in my childhood and it’s something which I continue to enjoy doing as a grown-up too.
Reading is a very gratifying experience and personally I wish kids would do more book reading and less playing on the iPads. Perhaps through this campaign, people will be reminded of what a joy reading as a child was and encourage their kids to be avid readers too. To get you started, SMP invites you to share fond memories of the childhood books you grew up with on their Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/irememberSG
The books I enjoyed reading back then, borrowed from either the library or classmates, were primarily mysteries such as the Nancy Drew series (during my grade school years), and those written by Agatha Christie (when I was a high-schooler; I remember that was the first time I encountered the word “arsenic”). Then when I developed an interest in foreign language – Japanese, one book I read left a very big impression.
That book is Totto-Chan: The Little Girl at the Window by Kuroyanagi Tetsuko. I first read it in 1984 and later bought a bilingual version in 1996. The book, also serving as the author’s childhood memoirs, tells the story of grade-schooler Totto-chan and the unconventional education she receives in a school where freedom of expression is permitted. The book goes on to describe the times that Totto-chan has, the friends she makes, the lessons she learns, and the vibrant atmosphere that she imbibes. All of these are presented to the reader through the eyes of a child. Thus the reader sees how the normal world is transformed into a beautiful, exciting place full of joy and enthusiasm; World War II had started, but the children led happy lives, unaware of the things going on in the world.
Do you still remember your childhood books that moved you? What books were you reading back then? What if the books we have forgotten, haven’t forgotten us? SMP has also produced a lovely short video on how an old book gets reunited with its owner, Jasmine.
SMP has created a photo album containing 30 old books and they hope to reunite them with their former owners. Go look at these old books, many have scribbles on the front page, markings, dog-ears, doodles… we all did that to our books too, didn’t we? :) It’s a fun initiative and you are also welcome to share your own memories by commenting on the posts too. Reunite with long lost friends here on Facebook.
All content submitted will be contributed to the Singapore Memory Project. Please visit iremember.sg to find out more. These memories will enable future generations of Singaporeans to understand the collective journey of the nation and the many facets of the Singapore that we call home.
The Singapore Memory Project (SMP) is also presenting two showcases during the Read! Festival this year, starting in June. Head on over to the National Library and check them out:
Books That Moved Me Showcases
Date: 20 June – 31 August 2014
Venue: Central Public Library
SMP embarked on a journey to reunite old books with old friends, and the result is a reunion showcase for avid readers with popular books of yesteryears and recent times. This exhibition invites the public to contribute their memories of reading and books. Activities will also be held over selected weekends for the public.
Date: 20 June – 31 August 2014
Venue: Lobby, Level 1, National Library Building
This exhibition features 40 reinterpretations of book covers, from local titles to international best-sellers and literary classics. A collaboration between SMP and KULT, artists from Singapore and overseas will present their take on book covers well-loved by the public, such as the works by Enid Blyton, Shakespeare and Catherine Lim. The artworks, accompanied by memories from readers, will be showcased in an SMRT train and at the lobby of the National Library Building.
I have never had anyone I know tell me that they hate reading books. I think it’s a pretty special gesture when my friends recommend and lend books to me, some have even bought copies of their faves and gifted them to me. I also think that it’s mighty romantic when a couple read together, separate books but in the same silent space. :) Reading is definitely one of life’s simple joys. Let’s all get lost in a book and allow our imagination to wander.
PS: While we’re on the subject of reading – if you have recommendations on good books that you’re reading now or have read, please leave me a comment below. Thanks!