Welcome Speech by Dr N Varaprasad, Chairman of READ! Singapore Steering Committee & Chief Executive, National Library Board, at the Closing Ceremony of READ! Singapore 2010, at The Conrad Centennial Hotel, 30 August 2010, 7.10pm

Release Date : 30 Aug 2010

Mr Seng Han Thong, Member of Parliament for Yio Chu Kang,

Ms Yeoh Chee Yan, Chairman, National Library Board (NLB),

Mrs Phoon Chew Ping, Chief Executive Designate, NLB,

Members of the READ! Singapore Steering Committee and Book Selection Sub-Committees,

Reading Ambassadors,


Ladies and gentlemen,

1. Thank you all for coming to the Closing Ceremony of READ! Singapore 2010. Just look around, the response to this closing ceremony has been so great that we had to change the venue from NLB to the Conrad Hotel. It really shows the great passion and dedication of our partners and supporters who have been working so closely with NLB on this initiative.

2. I was beginning to wonder whether this was a spill-over from the Closing Ceremony of the inaugural Youth Olympic Games that dazzled millions of people all over the world. We cannot match that ceremony in performance and razzle dazzle, but we can match them in terms of the passion, determination and commitment, all of which is so abundantly clear for everyone to see. But we do have a small taste of the YOG for you. Later on, you will view a video on some of the winners of the short story-writing competition 'Youth Writers Awards Asia 2010' which the National Library Board (NLB) organised in partnership with Reader's Digest especially for the Youth Olympic Games, where participants submitted entries on the theme of, "Dare to Dream: Stories of Imagination, Passion and Sporting Excellence".

3. As you know, READ! Singapore is into its sixth year. I am glad to say that with each year, we have managed to draw new audiences, and yet at the same time, present something new to those who have stayed with us on this literary journey from the beginning. When I first inaugurated READ! Singapore in 2005, I highlighted that while NLB was taking big leaps in strengthening the infrastructure and building a strategic roadmap for libraries in future, there was a far greater challenge that we needed to address, that of people struggling to find time to read for leisure. It is with this thought in mind that we embarked on a grassroots campaign to encourage Singaporeans to inculcate the habit of lifelong reading through this annual campaign. I believe we have certainly come a long way through READ! Singapore.

4. For the past six years, we have organised many programmes and initiatives to spark the imagination of the public and enabled them to discover the joy of reading and discussing what they had read with others. During this time, we managed to reach out to over 155,000 Singaporeans, through over 1,600 initiatives, with the support of 120 partners. This year alone, we reached out to over 45,000 participants over 370 programmes. But it is not just about figures and numbers. We wanted members of the public to reflect on their own lives and draw inspiration from the selected literary works. As such, each year we sought to select a theme which would resonate with the public and mirror the aspirations that they have. This year's theme of "Roads Less Travelled" provided a suitable platform for Singaporeans of various backgrounds to come together and share their experiences and perceptions on taking the path less trodden.

5. In addition, each year, READ! Singapore aims to highlight local works as a tribute to our literary heritage. For this year, the public was treated to the works of popular singer-songwriter, Stefanie Sun and educator Nurfaizah Tubi, who made their literary debut at this year's initiative. Literary luminaries such as Emeritus Professor, Edwin Thumboo and Philip Jeyaretnam also graciously lent their time in nurturing the interest of aspiring authors during the meet-the-author sessions. This enabled participants to come face-to-face with these authors and pick up tips on the craft of writing from them. Besides the local authors, we also had strong support from overseas authors such as Indonesian writer, Andrea Hirata, whose novel "Laskar Pelangi" (The Rainbow Troops) was adapted into an award winning film.

6. I would like to express my gratitude to all our authors for sharing with us their works and making time to discuss with us the inspiration behind their works. For it is through such sharing and interaction, that we can truly appreciate the deeper nuances behind their literature.

7. One measure of the success of an initiative is the support that it enjoys. I would like to express my appreciation to those who have contributed significantly to the growth of READ! Singapore over the years. Without their earnest support and belief in this initiative, READ! Singapore would not be able to make such an impact. I would like to sincerely thank the READ! Singapore Steering Committee and Book Selection Sub-Committees for their support, ideas and assistance in ensuring the continual success of the initiative over the past years. My heartfelt gratitude also goes to our reading ambassadors, reading facilitators, partners, sponsors and supporters for their hard work in bringing READ! Singapore where it is today.

8. I am pleased to announce that NLB will shortly commission a national survey of reading habits, among library users as well as non-users, to find out more about what they read, when they read, how long they read for, and where they read, why they read, and of course, whether they read at all. The results of this survey will help us to get a better feel of Singaporeans' reading habits - do they borrow or buy, do they read books or newspapers or online. This will help us create a benchmark so that we can say every five years or so, whether the reading habit is still alive or not.

9. There is no question that reading is a necessary life-skill. It is also the foundation of speaking and writing. Such basic literacy is needed to move on to higher order skills such as media literacy, cultural literacy and even financial literacy, and ultimately into creative and critical thinking.

10. I would like you to join me in thanking Mr Seng Han Thong, Member of Parliament for Yio Chu Kang, for gracing this evening's event as Guest-of-Honour. Mr Seng has been a firm advocate of the READ! Singapore initiative for the past years and has spread awareness on the importance of reading to his constituents. His ardent support has also led to the growth of reading clubs and for this, we are indeed grateful for his firm support.

11. I would also like to thank all my dedicated staff who have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure that we continue to deliver engaging and innovative programmes each year.

12. Finally, I would like to thank all of you who joined me on this "Road Less Travelled". The campaign may have ended but the spirit of reading should never end. It has been my privilege to be part of this inspiring initiative and I hope that you will continue to read to expand and ignite your imagination and discover new possibilities.

13. Thank you.