Friday, August 11, 2006

How To Do Well In English (Part 2)

My earlier post has inspired Ivan, to share his story about how he came to fall in love with books. I felt ashamed when I read his account because I had neglected to mention my father’s role. So here I am, making amends.

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!


Victor said...

Good thing that you still have your school days' exercise books with you. For me, I have long sold them to the kacang puteh man.

Chris Sim said...

A handsome man. Like father, like son.

What an oxymoron, Chun See. You put up the review and yet scanned it at low res to prevent us from reading :P

We won't laugh lah. Your dad would be proud.

Anonymous said...

Chun See - Very lucky to have educated parents.

My first introduction to books was when the mobile library services van came to the Bukit Panjang Community Center. Those were the days when National Library went around Singapore on wheels. They had very poor collections and so I preferred the Mama stall selling comics. Then there wasa noticeable absence of local writers and local stories.

You kept a page of your written composition - for me I kept all my primary school report cards. Last year out of boredom, I went back to my primary school to check if my primary school form teacher was still alive. Indeed he was. We met and he "reconfirmed" in writing my report card. Yesterday, I discovered my former school principal, a Canadian nationality, received a public service award form our government.

iml said...

A treasure trove of laughters and nostalgia to look through our past. Esp our thoughts. Sentimental fools we are.

Anonymous said...

Luckily reading is my most favourite pastime and therefore it do improve my English to a certain extent despite of my poor foundation in this subject. One thing that puzzles me, compared to the older generation of students, many of the present ones seem to score distinctions on this subject quite effortlessly in many schools. Is it because the present lot of students do make real progress in the English Language ? or they are just being exam smart. I hope my personal observation would not cause a controversy and upset the younger readers.

Chloe said...

Interesting! : ) said...

Chun See, post a clearer image of your book review lah! Aiyo! Wah, you dad marked your book reviews... now I can understand why you felt you had to write this tribute to your father.

fr said...

How I wish I have kept some of my old exercise and text books!