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Friday, August 14, 2009

This blog has moved

I have moved to a new blog (http://www.christinelim.net) for my s.

If you have any comment or enquiry, feel free to drop a message here or email me.

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Reading For Pleasure - Nurturing Lifelong Learners

Dear friends and readers, how have you been? I hope you have been kind to yourself. I am happy to announce that my book Guai Wu is now in the reproduction stage. There are still lots of things to do - colour corrections for the scans, touching up, colour proofing, cover design, text layout, final press check, etc, before the book goes to the bookstores.

In the meantime, I just want to share with you on the topic of reading for pleasure.

The Strait Times published an interview with Dr Ken Spillman, an Australian author of over 20 books including Blue and Love is a UFO, both acclaimed novels for teenagers, about "Getting the young to read for pleasure".

(Please click on the image to read the article.)

An evangelist of reading for pleasure, Dr Spillman visited Singapore on 24th August to gave a talk on in the interactive world at a conference that is part of the 5th Read! Singapore campaign.

As a parent, I would like to thank Dr Spillman for reminding us the benefits of reading for pleasure. He recently published his new juvenile entitled Jake’s Gigantic List*, which is especially dedicated to Children’s Book Council of Australia for being “so tireless in promoting the wonder of books”.

Jake’s Gigantic List
Jake’s Gigantic List is about discovering the magic of a great story. The protagonist is a little boy who wants it all. Like most kids, he loves birthdays and presents. He has pretty much everything a kid wants, though not enough. So for his coming birthday, his father tells him to make a wishlist which includes everything he has imagined to have - real spaceships, pet crocodile, friendly pirate, remote control football, a good mood tablet for teachers, etc. The list grew longer and longer, and more and more inventive. Luckily for Jake, Auntie Lyn knows just where to find them all. Filled with cute pencil sketch illustrations by Chris Nixon, Jake’s Gigantic List makes a fun book to read at anytime.

I personally had enjoyed reading Jake’s Gigantic List to Hannah, Heather and Yuri (my Japanese neighbour’s child) at bedtime. They all love the story to bits, especially the idea of creating their own adventure packed birthday list. Chris Nixon’s cartoonish, black and white drawings added extra playfulness to the lighthearted story.

You can find out more about Dr Ken Spillman on his website: www.kenspillman.com
Jake’s Gigantic List is published by Fremantle Press. ISBN 978 1921 361 71 5. You can purchase online http://www.fremantlepress.com.au/books/1111

Why reading for pleasure is so important to a child?
The world was once a place where books were not only for knowledge, book were also for entertainment, therefore for pleasure. Reading for fun was a favourite pastime of most children, teens and adults before the 50s. Then TV struck. Back then it was thought that TV would replace movies. Little did they know that movies would survive and reading for pleasure would fall by the wayside.

As TV watching increased, reading for fun decreased in direct proportion. With the birth of computers, popularisation of Internet and portable games gadgets in the 90s, as well as education system reform that stresses on academic achievement, people started to turn away from books to other form of activities for pleasure.

In UK, The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (Pirls) showed that the amount of reading overall outside school continued to plummet since the last study, six years ago. Only 33% of children in England and Scotland read for pleasure, compared with the international average of 40%.

The children's secretary, Ed Balls, said: "This study shows that our highest achieving children are reading less, with children's busy days leaving less time for books at home. As parents we have to get the balance right and as a society we have to send the right messages about the value of reading to our children."

Liberal Democrat shadow children's secretary David Laws said "Despite the success of books like Harry Potter, there is still a worryingly large group of our young people who have absolutely no interest in reading. We have to ensure that youngsters can not only read and write but that schools and parents breathe enjoyment back into what otherwise can be a rigid programme of learning."

In another interview, an award-winning children's author has suggested the current schooling system is putting kids off reading for pleasure.

While some independent schools may be exceptions to the rule, Frank Cottrell Boyce, told the Telegraph that continuous assessment and a focus on literacy may have improved the skills of some, but has taken the joy out of reading for many.

The was awarded the Carnegie Medal for children's writing after the success of his book Millions, but told the newspaper he feels the focus on how children read is damaging.

"It is like comparing health to sport," he said. "One is something functional - the other is something you do because you enjoy it." Mr Cottrell Boyce told the newspaper children who read for pleasure should naturally do better at school.

New Children’s Laureate encourages reading picture books for pleasure

Anthony Browne, the new Children’s Laureate
, has recently called for greater emphasis on reading for pleasure. Accepting the Laureateship in June he said, “I hope to encourage more children to discover and love reading, but I want to focus particularly on the appreciation of , and the reading of both pictures and words. Picture books are for everybody at any age, not books to be left behind as we grow older. The best ones leave a tantalising gap between the pictures and the words, a gap that is filled by the reader's imagination, adding so much to the excitement of reading a book.”

And, “if children are not encouraged to read for pure pleasure, if they are dragged away from reading books they enjoy – including picture books – and pushed into reading educationally worthy books, then we are in danger of creating a generation of non-readers.”

He also encouraged educators and teachers to revisit picture books. “Picture books are special – they’re not like anything else. Sometimes I hear parents encouraging their children to read what they call proper books (books without pictures), at an earlier and earlier age. This makes me sad, as picture books are perfect for sharing, and not just with the youngest children. As a father, I understand the importance of the bond that develops through picture books with your child.”

‘We have in Britain some of the best picture book makers in the world, and I want to see their books appreciated for what they are – works of art.”

Schools have been ordered to overhaul their English teaching after a three-year study by the education watchdog, Ofsted, found that 30% of lessons are not good enough and little attempt is made to encourage teenagers to read for pleasure.

The report was based on inspectors’ visits to English lessons in 242 schools from 2005 to 2008. Although recent developments were praised, test results on the whole have hardly improved since 2004.

Singapore children asking for more time to read for pleasure
In , children in primary schools are engaged daily for at least 30 minutes of silent reading, which is usually carried out in the assembly hall; although the activity is recently held in classrooms instead due to H1N1. Students are allowed to read anything other than text books, comics and other academic materials such as composition handbooks. As to whether a child is truly reading a book, or simply glancing at the words in it, is probably still a question only he or she can tell you.

A study made by an associate professor at Nanyang Technology University on the reading habits of Singapore children revealed that 62% of the students said that they read to get better grades in their tests and examinations or taking reading as a way to improve language skills as their motivations for reading. Slightly over 20% of the students said that most of the time they read because their parents or teachers asked them to do so.

Clearly, only a limited number of the students were reading for relaxation. This could only possibly be due to stressful Singapore education system which places high emphasis on meritocracy and good grades. Students, including those in the lower primary level (6 and 7 years of age), often face pressure from their parents and teachers to improve their academic performance. Many expressed the wish to have more time for fun reading.

It is, therefore, desirable that Singapore Ministry of Education (MOE), schools as well as parents should consider reducing workload of primary school children so that they may find sufficient time and energy for fun reading.

The other dimension of this issue is that often children of Generation Z have a fixed amount of time and energy for leisure activities and, in addition to fun reading, many activities are competing for their time and attention. With more and more children being technologically savvy, books may perceived as less appealing and exciting in comparison to, say, a cutting-edge handheld game gadget, a fashionable mobile phone or the latest computer activities. Afterall, it does take a bit more brain cells and patience to digest a good story than watching a DVD or playing games on the Internet.

However, we already know that at the end, their imagination and intellectual curiosity is more likely expand hundred times more with books. Through the power and music and magic of stories and poems that children can also develop the empathy and awareness that they will need to tackle the complexities of their own emotions, of the human condition in which they find in themselves.

What can you do to encourage reading for pleasure?
Teachers and parents can play an important role in educating children how to keep a balance in their leisure activities, including reading for pleasure.

Children model after their parents’ lifestyle. I think that how do you instill in a child not to pick their food is similar to how you instill the joy of reading in a child. With eating, you, as a parent, must not be choosy or overly bias (with exception to junk food) and encourage your child to try out a good variety of healthy food. With reading, you must first make sure your child sees you reading for pleasure other than at read-aloud time that you and your child can do together before sleeping. Sharing with your child your enthusiasm for whatever you are reading is also a good way to cultivate his or her interest in reading.

My story:
I think I am personally a fairly late convert. My parents speak only Mandarin, Hokkien and Teochew. They were born during post occupation. They came from poor family and had only a few years of education. My mum learnt Teochew (a chinese dialect) through Chinese opera performing, which was her career for many years from the age of 12 until she married my dad. She learnt to read Chinese characters in the opera script. Mandarin was picked up probably in the 80s when television became popular in homes. My dad had to work since very very young, probably about 6 years old. He helped in the farm, grew vegetable and crops, raised pigs, chicken and ducks. My grandmother, who came to Singapore from China in a junk with her mother and sister, was a single mum to nine children, including those of my grandaunt’s own and adopted. All of them lived together under one scrap-metal roof where the toilet was a few yards outside the house. My grandaunt worked as a samsui woman (labour worker at construction sites) while my grandmother ran the household and a farm at home. My father had to give up school before he became a young adult to work as a carpenter, a chicken rice seller and a hawker to live. He had never given up learning languages and acquired sufficient reading skill to comprehend the newspaper and written materials that he finds interesting to read.

During my primary school days, if I am honest, I read to get through book reviews and exams. I didn’t do well in English because there was no help from home and school. And because English was my weakest subject, I find myself struggling with chapter books, which were the only kind of books we were allowed to read and review. I can’t recall much of what I read other than some of Enid Blyton’s and Hans Christian Anderson’s books, and Z for Zachariah by Robert C. O’Brien, a story about life after a nuclear disaster. No one introduced me to AA Milne, Beatrix Potter, Dr Suess or Roald Dahl, whom I believe I would have love to read if I had known them.

Time flew and I was in secondary school. I don’t know how or why I became very interested in literature and turned out to be good at it. Shakespeare was my favourite. I even bought the whole collection of his works later on in life. I guess it was probably then I began to like books a little more. I also signed on as a student librarian at my school for a year or two. As I grew older, books became my life companion. I even worked in a bookshop for a while. After meeting my husband, who is an avid reader, I was introduced to some more world’s best authors including J R.R Tolkien, CS Lewis, Issac Asimov, and many more.

I feel very fortunate to be in the children’s book industry. Not only that I get to read for knowledge and pleasure, sharing stories with children, I even get to meet and work with authors and be the first few to read their stories that can add sparkles to a child’s life (and mine too). Every night, I also get to read aloud to my daughters all the best books ever written. What a blessing … all from my love for reading.

So, it’s really never too late to become a bookworm or raise one.

And it’s definitely not too late to experience every little heartfelt magical moments that you can discover between the lines in books.

Dr Seuss in I can Read with my Eyes Shut said: “The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” While Roald Dahl in Charlie and Chocolate Factory beseeched: “So please, oh PLEASE, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away, And in its place you can install, a lovely bookshelf on the wall!”

To end, I would like to quote from author Emma Walton Hamilton, author of Raising Bookworms: Getting kids Reading for Pleasure and Empowerment:

“Let’s help our kids to access the innate joy and empowerment in exploring the ideas and insights of great writers, thinkers, artists, and philosophers. Let’s imagine a world in which they actually participate, with active voices, informed opinions, and the real hope of being heard. Let’s get started right now.”

I am off to read John Danalis' new novel Riding The Black Cockatoo before I hit the sack. He said to me: "There is healing smokes within the pages. Breathe and enjoy!"

Sources and links:
Telegraph UK
Guardian UK
Independent UK
Timesonline UK
Children's Laureate UK
Children's Book Council of Australia
Wall Street Journal Online

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

An afternoon of enriching the creative minds at Little Lit

The inaugural “Little Lit: Enriching Minds & Igniting A Writer’s Spark”, a Pre-Festival Event of the
held at The Arts House on 24th May 2009, was a huge success.

Many heartfelt thanks to our sponsors and organisers - National Arts Council, The Art House, Monsters Under The Bed and Press Holdings, our publishers Ethos Books and Epigram, our distributor Marketasia everyone who helped out as well as ALL who attended the event.

The panel of speakers including poet Aaron Lee, s Adeline Foo and Felix Cheong, together with illustrators Joshua Chiang, Lee Kowling, Stephanie Wong and myself were greeted by 200 odd attendees including children, parents, teachers, writers, aspiring writers and illustrators, plus many others who are keen to learn more about writing and illustrating for children.

All of us had lots of fun sharing with everyone our knowledge, journey and passion for children’s literature.

, author of 13 children’s books, talked about the various career choices for a , and other aspects of writing such as book marketing, as well as sharing her process of writing The Diary of Amos Lee, a new book she collaborated with illustrator/book designer Stephanie Wong, who talked about the process in designing the character for Amos Lee and how to create illustrations and book cover for a novel that works.

, a prize winning poet, an excellent speaker who was also the brilliant moderator for the event, talked about his love for poetry. He shared with us many inspiring poems that touch the hearts of children and adults.

Felix Cheong, an award winning poet and novelist, shared his wisdom on writing fiction for the tweens (children between 9 to 14 years old)and tips on penning the first word. A former TV producer and studio director,with the help of three youngsters, he demonstrated the use of sound to dramatise storytelling.

For me, it was a great privilege to speak at “Little Lit”. This is the first time artists are featured as part of the Singapore Writers Festival, which is Singapore’s most prestigious and only national literary festival.

My talk about Asian Influence in Children's Books covered a brief presentation of my work and illustration style for children’s books,a showcase of illustrators in Asia, an introduction to Asian heritage, a peek into my childhood as a child to a Chinese opera performer and how I incorporate Asian elements, in terms of Chinese values and arts, in my new book “Guai Wu The Monster Child”, a story set in China during the Qing Dynasty, which should be in major bookstores by July.

Joshua Chiang, an all rounded animator and , shared his experience, tips and tricks on how he goes about creating his characters for cartoons and his first children’s book. His philosophy “Remain a child at heart always” conveys the message from every children’s book writer and illustrator.

Lee Kowling, a veteran in the book illustration scene, took us through her journey as an illustrator from the 90s till now. She explained how she developed a wide variety of illustration styles to meet the needs of the stories she worked on. It was a visual feast for the audience.

We look forward to bringing back the event again.

Little Lit, grooming Singapore's next generation of writers
From 8 to 16, they came and absorbed everything about writing and publishing

Mr Phan Ming Yen (Director of The Arts House) gave an opening speech.

Speakers Felix Cheong, Adeline Foo, Stephanie Wong
Illustrators panel - Joshua Chiang, , Lee Kowling

Poet, emcee and moderator Aaron Lee

The crowd of 200 plus parents and children (Many others had to be turned away, our sincere apologies)

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

We are on Sunday Times!

Author Adeline Foo and Lee Kowling, Christopher Martin, Joshua Chiang and myself were interviewed by press on Wednesday. The interview was featured on Sunday Times today.

To read, click on the image.

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Meet the monster gang

I have been keeping silence for a few months now. I am so thrilled that I can finally let the cat out of the bag!

Last year late October, Adeline Foo, winner of the inaugural First Time Writers and Illustrators Initiative award, author of Ben's Rainforest series and Peranakan Heritage series, invited me to illustrate one of her newest children's titles. It didn't take me long to say yes after reading the initial manuscript.

Since then, I have been working tirelessly. My book which should be available in major bookstores sometime in May. Currently, production is in full swing. After nearly two months of pretty intensive research, hundreds of sketches and thumbnails, I finally started doing the final paintings a month ago. I must admit I underestimated the amount of time I need to work on the book. I also did not expect myself to be so meticulous over the details on the painting. Anyway, thankfully both Adeline and my publisher (Ethos Books) have been really patient. That really allow me to produce my best for the book.

Today, the first three books of Adeline's latest series (titled Monsters in the Mind) were launched at the Mint Toy Museum. Me, Hannah and Heather, together with Mariko and her daughter Yuri (our Japanese neighbour) rushed to the book event after Hannah's ballet class. We were fashionably late for a good reason. Wai Han called me when I was half way on the road. Apparently everyone was waiting for me to start the event. My jaw dropped! I was certain that I did inform them that I will get there 45 mins later. Before I could settle down, I was given a very warm welcome and a microphone. I don't remember exactly what I said other than thanking everyone for their support and patience. Truthfully, I am so lucky to be in the team of such wonderful people.

After the launch, the girls and I joined Adeline, Kowling and their family for dinner. We also pop by to see Christopher Martin, illustrator for "The Thing Under My Bed". He is also an artist and the creative director of Splatter. Together with his wife Angela Mather, they are selling their original art pieces Creative Australia 2009 event being held at Raffles City, Level 3 Atrium, from 13 to 22 March 2009.

Do drop by if you have time during the school holiday.

Also don't forget to bring for kids to meet the "monster gang" at Kinokuniya Takashimaya on the 21 March 2009, 3.30 to 4.30pm.

So check out MUTB for other events in .

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

New website

I have created a new link for my s.

Click here or enter http://christinelimsimpson.blogspot.com.
If you have any comment or enquiry, feel free to drop a message here or email me.

Keep watching this space for work from my new book.

Cheers! Have a fabulously creative year ahead!

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Who is asleep?

Who is asleep?
Written by Anne Smith
Illustrated by
Medium -
Publisher - Publishwrite

12 s for a big format children's book for pre-schoolers.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Quick peek

A glimpse of what I am working on now. Here is a small section of a sketch for one of the twelve illustrations. I am hoping to get them finished in watercolour.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

New illos

for First Time Writers and Illustrators Publishing Initiative 2008, a yearly event organised by the National Book Development Council of . I collaborated with Lynn, a mother who is aspired to be a children's book writer, on this project. I had less than a week to come out with the illos for her book. I managed to complete 1 full colour version with and 2 tight black and white sketches.

Illustrations for The Felt Elephant

These illustrations are for my regular publisher. All in watercolour.

Click on each picture to see enlarged version

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Monday, December 03, 2007

A Day At The Zoo

Illustrations for A Day At The Zoo

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Illos for Where do I live?

Here are some of the s for the book which I completed last week. I learned a lot about perspective when working on "Where do I Live?". It was fun designing all these houses, wish I get to design my own one day.

I have problems getting the colours corrected for the screen. The hue on the original is a lot more natural. Any advice?

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