While it’s not an easy feat to get a child at the age of 3 to read of the menu, reading this article makes me worry for my kids in the future. I hope to be quite sure that the kid picked up reading gradually on his own and I do agree with his mum that in such a competitive place like Singapore, headstarts in whatever things is an advantage.

What scares me is how parents are hoping to improve their kids’ memory, creativity and mathematics (counting?) at and early age. I don’t really dare to imagine how stressed my kid at Primary 1 will be, coming back and crying that everyone has superb memory and could do calculations in complex numbers. It’s no wonder the GCEs are beginning to be a poor gauge of a student’s academic ability because it will eventually only segregate the smart from the… not-so-smart. Perhaps the Special papers can now be used to pick out the very smart (and beyond) from the just-smart-enough, but at the rate things are going, we probably need a Really-Special paper in the near future.

I also foresee a Pre-primary / Kindergarten Leaving Examination (PPLE/KLE) in the near future to determine whose kids could go to which schools. Well, at least this may help to reduce some bickering from parents about the Primary 1 balloting. 

He can read the menu – and he’s only three

More parents are introducing their kids to reading at an earlier age

By Sumathi V. Selvaretnam

WHEN three-year-old Alastair Shee goes to a restaurant, he has a knack for wowing waiters by ordering off the menu.

The toddler, whose favourite a la carte dish is macaroni soup, can read simple words at an age when most of his peers are still struggling with their ABCs.

‘I started reading to him when he was three months old,’ said Alastair’s mother, Mrs Vanessa Shee, 35.

‘I did it to give him a headstart as it is very competitive in Singapore.’

Like her, more parents are eager to introduce reading to their newborns and interest in baby-specific books, DVDs and flashcards is booming.

Last year, branches of the National Library increased their stock of books for children under three by almost 25 per cent.

They also hand out up to 600 reading kits every month to expecting mothers.

The popularity of pricey infant learning kits is also on the rise, with one $570 package seeing a 50 per cent increase in sales in the last three years, said its distributor.

Parents are also flocking to workshops conducted by infant learning experts.

One held last month by Dr Robert Titzer, an internationally renowned childhood educator, drew 94 parents, double the expected turnout.

According to Dr Titzer, parents can start reading to their babies at two or three months old.

It is an age when, for the first time, newborns are able to follow things with their eyes.

‘The earlier the child reads, the better the child reads and it is more likely that he will enjoy reading,’ he said.

His approach uses flashcards, books and DVDs that stimulate a baby’s senses with simple words, actions and sounds.

Then, there are parents who are opting for the Shichida method, which is popular in Japan.

The classes offer activities that help develop a child’s memory, creativity and the ability to perform quick calculations.

The two centres in Singapore that offer the course have long waiting lists and parents sign up months before their children are born. Twelve lessons lasting about one hour and 15 minutes each cost about $745.

While there is no harm in starting early, parents should be careful not to overburden the child, said Ms Teresa To, a senior speech therapist at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

‘Parents don’t have to be too hung up about reading every single word on a page. Instead, they can look at pictures and describe them or sing songs and rhymes,’ she said.

Mrs Janaki Samikannu, 27, began reading to her 10-month-old daughter, Shria, when she was just two weeks old.

Like other parents, she said the sessions have other non-academic benefits.

She said: ‘I don’t know if she is picking up any words but it is just to get her into the whole feel and habit of reading. It also allows me to bond with her.’


Source: Straits Times Interactive, http://www.straitstimes.com/Singapore/Story/STIStory_253022.html

Article extracted on 30th June 2008

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