Welcome Speech by Dr N Varaprasad, Chief Executive, National Library Board, at the Opening Ceremony of READ! Singapore 2010, at Conrad Centennial Singapore on 26 May 2010 at 12.10pm

Welcome Speech by Dr N Varaprasad, Chief Executive, National Library Board, at the Opening Ceremony of READ! Singapore 2010, at Conrad Centennial Singapore on 26 May 2010 at 12.10pm

Release Date : 01 Jun 2010

Mr Gan Kim Yong, Minister for Manpower

Ms Yeoh Chee Yan, Chairman, National Library Board

NLB Board Members,

READ! Singapore Steering Committee Members,


Reading Ambassadors,


Ladies and gentlemen,

1. Good afternoon and a warm welcome to the Opening Ceremony of READ! Singapore 2010.

Achievements of READ! Singapore

2. The National Library Board has been organising READ! Singapore since 2005 with the aim to encourage the community to develop a love for reading literature. We are heartened very much that over the years, we have seen increasing participation from different segments of our society. Last year, we reached out to 29,000 Singaporeans, which was more than double the number of participants when we first launched the campaign in 2005. To date, we have seen more than 110,000 Singaporeans who have participated in more than 1,260 activities.

3. The success of the campaign is apparent from the large number of organisations taking the initiative on their own to organise their reading programmes and be part of the reading process. For example, Gan Eng Seng Secondary School recently conducted a reading marathon lasting 125 minutes, in celebration of their 125th anniversary. This was largely inspired by one of our own READ! Singapore events, the Reading Marathon, that lasted a total of 144 hours.

Overview of READ! Singapore 2010

4. While we are delighted with the community involvement and good progress made over the last five years, we continue to strive to reach out to more and more Singaporeans each year. This year, we have selected an interesting range of literary works and planned a very exciting line-up of programmes over the next 14 weeks for Singaporeans from all walks of life to take part in.

Theme and target audience of READ! Singapore 2010

5. The theme of READ! Singapore 2010 is “Roads Less Travelled”. Most of us have chosen conventional paths in our careers and life choices. However, there are those amongst us who are pathfinders or simply, just taking a different route to enjoy the journey instead of focusing on getting to the destination. READ! Singapore can provide a suitable platform for Singaporeans of different backgrounds to come together and share their experiences and perspectives about making such unconventional life choices.

6. This theme is particularly meaningful to our youths and the community-at-large. Exciting and challenging times lie ahead for our young people, particularly with Singapore hosting the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in August 2010. Through READ! Singapore, we hope to inspire our youths to discuss with their peers the different paths available to them and how they intend to make a difference to the world in their own unique way.

Selection of Books, Short Stories and Poems

7. In line with the theme, a set of thought-provoking literary works, consisting of eight novels, eight short stories and five poems in the four official languages, have been selected by the READ! Singapore Steering Committee. One title, Raffles Place Ragtime by Philip Jeyaretnam, was voted by the public. This year's selection features the most number of Singaporean and Singapore-based authors to date and this is a very good sign. It is a reflection of the growth and development of our local literature scene. To encourage the public to read across different cultures and languages, the short stories have been translated into the other three official languages and published into four anthologies. We have also produced audio books of the selected short stories to be distributed to voluntary welfare homes, hospitals and other non-profit organisations.

8. This is the first year that we are introducing poetry as part of the literary works to provide a greater variety of literature for the nation to read and enjoy. Four local poems, one in each of the four official languages, have been chosen. In addition, we have selected the famous poem, “The Road Not Taken”, by the late American poet Robert Frost, as it is very much linked to this year's theme.

9. Let me now share with you some of the other selected books and short stories for this year. For the English works, we begin with Jia by Hyejin Kim, who is based in Singapore. This book is about the poignant story of a young orphaned girl in North Korea. The protagonist, Jia, lost both her parents at the beginning of the book and was secretly sent away by her grandparents from their home in the mountains to Pyongyang where she was trained to be a dancer. From then on, she had to fight to survive in a life filled with obstacles and challenges. The second English selected work is “Ever After”, written by our local writer, Nurfaizah Tubi. This is a short story that explores the intricacies of love and relationships in a seemingly very typical Singaporean family and the struggles the family members have to deal with on a daily basis.

10. For the Chinese selected works, we have Chasing The Rainbow, a novel by Choo Lian Liang, which charts the trials and tribulations four generations of a family went through in their pursuit of a better life. We also have a short story, “Cassette Tapes” by our home-grown international superstar, Stefanie Sun, in which she talked about how her path to a successful career in pop music began with using a cassette recorder and cassette tapes to record her singing during her younger days.

11. For the Malay books and short stories, we have selected The Rainbow Troops, a novel by Indonesian author, Andrea Hirata. The story revolves around a group of students and their teachers who fought for a right to education, even as they faced constant hardship. “Marriage Guardian” by Patimah Jaludin is a short story about a couple being confronted with a dark secret when their daughter decided to get married. Read it to find out what this secret is!

12 Both the Tamil novel, Mother has Arrived, written by the late T Janakiraman, and the Tamil short story, “A Mother Like Her”, written by R Thuraimanikam, explore the relationship between a mother and her son. Mother has Arrived is about a scholar learning about his mother's secret and having to deal with it, while “A Mother Like Her” narrates how a young widow had to make a bold decision to save her only child when he took a wrong path in life.

13. These are some of the stimulating works that are offered for this year's reading campaign and we hope that Singaporeans will also find them inspiring for their discussions with their reading club mates, colleagues, friends and family.

Highlights of READ! Singapore 2010

14. Over the next three months, there will be many interesting and varied programmes for the public to take part in. I would like to highlight the key initiatives.

15. The first is READ! Singapore's first ever infocomm-enabled nation-wide reading event, Read! IT. Organised by NLB and the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore, Read! IT will feature teams of readers reading simultaneously over a two-hour period at six different venues. These venues are The Plaza at the National Library Building, Nee Soon South Community Club, Chua Chu Kang Community Club, Geylang Serai Community Club, Marsiling Community Club and Nanyang Polytechnic. Minister Gan Kim Yong himself will also be reading with his community at the Chua Chu Kang Community Club on the same day.

16. The reading teams will be video-streamed online via a collaborative platform. The public can go to this online platform to view the teams creatively read or present their selected books in the form of a dance, mime performance or skit. They can also tweet about Read! IT, vote for their favourite team of readers and participate in online teasers to win attractive prizes. Reading carnivals will also be held at these locations on the same day so that members of the public can join in with the teams at the physical locations.

17. The second key highlight of READ! Singapore 2010 is Game2Read, an initiative of NLB and the Singapore Cybersports and Online Gaming Association (SCOGA). Targeting at members of the gaming community, this two-day event will feature a series of sports activities, gaming competitions, a cyber-wellness exhibition and book discussions. Non-gamers and members of the public are welcomed to join us at this event to re-discover the joy of reading.

18. Last year, we jointly organised the Youth Writers Awards Asia with Reader's Digest Asia and invited Asian youths to submit original short stories on the theme, “Dare to Dream: Stories of Imagination, Passion and Sporting Excellence”. The top 30 entries were selected and have been published into a book. 10,000 copies of this book will be distributed to schools and at other outreach events. We will also be inviting the top five winners to join us in various sharing sessions this August to share their thoughts of their short stories with other youths in the community.

Expression of appreciation

19. I would like to express my appreciation and gratitude to several people and organisations without whom we would not be able to organise this event.

20. Firstly, I would like to show my appreciation to the READ! Singapore Steering Committee members for putting in their efforts in selecting a wonderful set of literary works and setting the overall direction for this campaign. I would also like to thank all the Reading Ambassadors who will be working hand in hand with us. The Reading Ambassadors are very keen in spreading the message of reading literature.

21. Next, I would like to express my thanks to the reading facilitators. Over the past years, we have trained many facilitators. They will be playing an important role in facilitating book discussion sessions at various community clubs and reading clubs. I would also like to express my gratitude to our partners this year, including IDA, SCOGA, Conrad Centennial Singapore, Reader's Digest, M1 Limited, SilkAir, Face of Man Skincare, Maya Dance Theatre, Sofra Turkish Café & Restaurant, among many others. Some of them are new partners and we thank them for coming on board to join us in this reading journey.

22. Because of you, our partners and the different communities' strong support, it gives me great pleasure to announce that the READ! Singapore 2009 campaign was awarded - just over a fortnight ago - the PRISM Excellence Award under the 'Public Service Campaigns' category by the Institute of Public Relations of Singapore.

23. Finally, I would like to thank Minister Gan and also our Chairman Ms Yeoh for taking time out of their busy schedules to grace this afternoon's event. Minister, your presence here today has certainly kept us motivated to further promote a culture of fiction reading in the nation.

24. I hope that all of you will enjoy reading the literary works and we will look forward to your active participation in the various activities and programmes that will be held in the next three months. Take the road less travelled this year through READ! Singapore. READ on with us…it might just spark your imagination and you never know, it might just create new possibilities for you!

25. Thank you.