1948 Photo of my dad
My father was probably the biggest influence in encouraging us to read. When my siblings and I were in primary school, he used to borrow books from the library at this place called ‘Lembaga’ – I think it was the Adult Education Department of the Ministry of Education, for us to read. So even in primary school, we read simplified versions of classics such as Lorna Doone and The Black Tulip.
In secondary school, he encouraged us to write book reviews, and he actually took the trouble to mark them. I still have the exercise book on which I wrote those reviews – actually it was just a summary followed by a paragraph of comments. I reproduce a page below for you to see. Please don’t laugh at the childish remarks (if you can read them that is – I deliberately scanned it in low resolution to make it difficult for you to do so. Haha). This was the initial attempt of a Sec 3 kampong boy.
This is the first page of a two-and-a-half page review of Uncle Tom's Cabin that I wrote on 5/9/67. One line reads; “How do you think they felt, as they stood there crying, chained, whilst two people are arguing hotly, and the subject of their argument; their prices.”
Of course it was also our dad who introduced us to the National Library at Stamford Road and the mee rebus and Indian rojak stalls at Waterloo Street. So you can understand why guys of our generation have such fond memories of that place and felt really upset when the government went ahead to tear it down in spite of much opposition from the public.
Like IML, I too try to pass this reading habit on to my children. When they were young, I often read bedtime stories to them. Our favourites were stories from the Children's bible. And they made us repeat the stories over and over again. My youngest, who was the cheekiest of my 3 children, liked to act out a particular scene from The Prodigal Son. Everytime we came to the part where the father rushed out of the house to greet his long lost son and ‘threw his arms’ around him, she would jump off the bed and pretend to rip off her own arms and hurled them at us!