Growing up, neither of us at The History Workroom read local books – either by local authors or by local authors on local topics. There wasn’t much choice. There were the odd Catherine Lim and You Jin books. Books on Singapore’s history? Only textbooks and academic publications, if we were keen.
Although today’s children have more local books to choose from, the pickings on Singapore history books are still slim, as reader Irene Louis said in her letter published in the Straits Times.
It’s been one of our objectives at The History Workroom to produce books on Singapore’s history for children and for adults. We do not want to produce just textbooks, but books that will make the readers think beyond what they have read, books that will inspire readers – especially the young ones – to find out more on the subjects and people that matter to them.
It’s been a tough journey – writing and publishing local subjects is not lucrative and often, we can do with more financial and moral support. Still we have enjoyed our journey so far. Thank you to all who read and loved Samsui Girl, Wayang Girl, Gasing Boy and Coolie Boys. Every now and then when we see or hear any of these titles mentioned or Lee-Ling receiving the occasional fan mail from her young fans, we know we’re on the right track. Not the easiest one, but definitely a fulfilling one for us.
We’ve got a couple more books on Singapore’s history coming your way in the next year or so. Keep a lookout for them!
Here’s Ms Louis’ letter to the ST, published today:
MY EIGHT-YEAR-OLD enjoys social studies in school and often asks me questions about Singapore’s history.
To cater to her interest, I tried to find books on Singapore’s past that are suitable for children, and found there were not many.
After much searching, I managed to buy the book Samsui Girl by Lee-Ling Ho. It was stocked by only one supplier and can be bought only online.
At Popular Bookstore, I was glad to find the children’s book Growing Up With Lee Kuan Yew by Lawrence Koh Choon Teck, but I was taken aback by its $21.90 price tag.
In the United States, children’s books on George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and other important figures in the country’s past are easily available at very affordable prices.
Perhaps this is why Americans take pride in their country’s past, having been exposed to it from a young age through colourful storybooks.
In Singapore, much reading of the country’s history is done in the pages of a textbook, as a subject in school.
Since there are so few storybooks on Singapore’s history, can’t the ones we have be made more readily available and at prices that would entice Singaporeans to buy them?
How can we hope to instil national pride in the young when the resources are limited?
As the country’s population grows more diverse, this is an area of learning that the Government must look into.
Irene Louis (Ms)