|Singaporean in Kuala
"This is Peter and This is Jane...." "A" began to read. Slow but steady then stop and look up at her.
"Go on...Don't stop. You're doing great. Go on."
"I'm reading correctly Auntie?"
"Yes! Yes! You are. Now go on don't stop. If you make mistake I will correct you"
"A" continue... Word by word. She closed her eyes and listening to the voice. Every vowels and the
sounds. "A" voice is her voice : original and pure. Its a voice of suppression . A voice that has been
force to keep silence for too long , forgotten and now suddenly realise they still exist. 'A" face shine with
delight as she hears her own voice pronouncing each word and could understand what those words
mean to her now.
Speech is the words that you use, but the voice is the sound. Sounds are the very energy that vibrates
within a person. You're voice tells of who and what you are. As part of her presentation skill training
courses she took before coming to Kuala Lumpur, she's often reminded that the voice is an important
aspect of the presenter.
Sound fascinates her. Many occasion when she felt restless at night and couldn't sleep, she would be
out in the garden or the balcony sitting quietly listening to the sound of the night. The rustling of the
leaves as the wind blows and squeaking of the insects of the night is like music to her ears. They are
the orchestra of the night. Other times she would be in the living room on the sofa with the lights off,
listening to the soothing music from the CD she bought. As she listen she would be dissecting the
music, separating the sound of the various musical instruments played, and listen quietly to the
melody. Each musical instrument has its own distinctive sound. Each are like an individual, separate
and holistic but with an identity. She could hear the sitar talking to the tabla talking to the flute talking to
the Mridangam. They are not just talking but dancing as well in her head and how they all eventually
come together, merge and form a symphony in harmony.
This whole experience of teaching "A" has open up a lot of things she has never though before. How
often she takes reading for granted. You don't think about it. Once a book is in her hand, she would
began to read. People read for a variety of reasons : to gain knowledge, to communicate, to instruct
other, to entertain and many more but to her reading is a form of escape. Once she began, she's
transported into another world. Everything else around her ceases to exist. She couldn't imagine not
being able to read at all. The last few days, she tried to imagine herself as "A", trying to see what its'
like not being able to read the words. Is it the same as being blind?
"so why is "A" not send to school?" she questioned the home administrator .
"oh! she dosent have a birth certificate. So we cannot send her to school. Most public school will not
accept her in."
And so that is how her journey began with "A". When she agreed to take on "A" and help her up, she
thought it would be so simple. She has the money, why not just pay somebody to teach "A". She
contacted the tuition center where all the other children from the home went for their classes, but when
the coordinator there knew about "A" inability to read and count, they refuse.
"We don't think so we can handle her... " the coordinator told her. "Do you know half of the children from
the home came to us, don't know how to read?"
"you can"t be serious?"
"I'm not joking. You're there right, why don't you access several of the children and find out yourself"
and she did. She go hold several children from standard 3 - 4, gave them the peter and Jane book, out
of 10 only 2 can read till book 3. The others can't even go pass 1B.
"How on earth do they go through from standard 1 till 4?" she asked one of the tuition center teacher.
"beats me...! Welcome to the Malaysian Education system"
"so Jacob, tell me how do you get through your exams" she asked one of the boys "if you can't read"
"simple auntie... mostly all are multiple choice question. So we do ini minor mini more"
Is this an isolated care? What about other homes? How many more children are there not able to read?
I see" suddenly she felt so afraid. Afraid for all of them. It's a tragic.
The next option for her is to hire a private tuition teacher for "A". Initially all seems so good, then
gradually the teacher began to loose interest in "A". They promise to come but when the time came, "A"
will be seen waiting at the table, the teacher could not be reach. She came to the decision that she
would do the teaching herself. It must be her own effort. She has learnt from this experience. Its much
easier to part with your money, but nobody would want to sacrifice their time and energy.
"Jane likes the toy and Peter likes the toy" "A" reads on the last page of Peter And Jane 1B, a lady bird
keyword reading schemes she've been using; recommended by Aunt Menon, Her husband Aunt, a
retired teacher from Singapore......
"You are reading ! " "A" could only give her a smile looking so please with herself. "Did you show this to
"yes i did..."
"he said good. I must continue to read some more"
"and you must. Next we need to work on your maths.... not just any ordinary maths... mental maths. You
will be able to count mentally so fast, everybody will be amaze at you, yes?"
'Yes auntie. Why do I need to learn to count?" asked "A"
"Good question. I like it when you ask questions. You must learn to ask more okay. In order for you to
go out and be on your own, you need three basic skills : to read, to write and count"
She walked back home not knowing what to feel. It was not tiredness nor sadness, but an empty
feeling. Where all these will lead her to, she knows not. But she knows, she need to do something
about it. But what?
"your daughter couldn't read" auntie menon voice as she came out from the study room
where she normally has her tuition classes, still holding on the Ash's hand, walked towards
the living room where we're sitting chatting with Uncle Menon during our Deepavali visiting.
"why is it so?" The question obviously directed at her and her husband. They looked at each
other. They have never thought about it at all.
"how old is she?" she asked again
"3 coming to 4" hubby replied to her
"in singapore most children by the age of 3 they could read and write. Why your daughter
can't?.. you all must start her now. Wait for what... until she goes to kindergarden? by then its
too late..." and she goes on and on, grumbling.
"but she knows her ABC and she could count"
"that is not good enough... you should do more for her.. start her to read now. dont wait"
Auntie Menon voice again.
She resign in silence. She has discuss this countless time with her husband. She dosent
want their daughter to be pressured academically just like them. It is her belief that
academic achievement is not a true measure of a person's success. She wants her daughter
to grow and learn at her own pace. Auntie Menon went back to her study and came out 5
mins later with three books in her hand.
"here... " she place the three books on her lap. Its the Peter and Jane series... 1A, 1B and
1C. "use these books. You can get the rest from the book shop. I'm sure you will find them.
The Peter and Jane is one of the most successful reading scheme. I use it myself for my
students. You see I have several students who can't read at all. When I use this scheme,
they immediately pick it up easily"
That is how she got hang on to Peter and Jane. She bought the whole series till 9C and start
it with Ash, giving herself one year. Her goal... by the end of the year, Ash should be able to
read till 9B. Surprisingly it takes Ash less than 12 months to complete the series. By 7B Ash
got bored with the book and wanted to read other books instead.