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Published: Sunday December 8, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Sunday December 8, 2013 MYT 8:48:57 AM

Powerhouse of books

Look what I got: Megan proudly posing with her book prizes.

Look what I got: Megan proudly posing with her book prizes.

THE many benefits of reading are widely documented. Reading, especially among young children, helps boost cognitive skills and improve attention span.

With the barrage of many technological gadgets and online entertainment these days, reading is said to be on the decline.

However, judging from the rave reviews of winners from the Step Up mini contests, reading is certainly not a dying habit.

“I’m glad to have received the books Dracula and Alexander the Great,” said Chin Peng Cheng from SJK (C) Labis, Johor.

“I like the book Dracula because it is scary and interesting. The story is about Jonathan Harker, his family, their friend Prof Van Helsing and how they fought the vampire Dracula,” he added.

He also revealed that Bram Stoker is one of his favourite authors. Besides Dracula, he also enjoyed Alexander the Great because its main character Alexander was a brave man.

“Apart from his own country, Alexander controlled the Persian Empire, Greece, and a part of India,” said Peng Cheng, adding that it was a pity Alexander died so suddenly when his empire was at its greatest.

Step Up, an initiative under The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (NiE) programme, is a 24-page bilingual pullout that aims to enhance the command of English in primary schools.

Throughout the year, the pullout ran three mini contests. The first mini contest was called “Word pictures” where pupils had to submit answers to puzzles.

The second one had pupils naming their favourite teacher and drawing the word “teacher” in a creative way so that it expressed the meaning of the word. Teachers named in the winning entries were delighted when they too were presented with a gift.

For the third mini contest, pupils were asked to submit a bookmark dedicated to their best friends.

Peng Cheng and the other winners of the Step Up mini contests received books from the Usborne Reading Programme.

The stories are engaging and the books help enhance their general knowledge.

“From the story Dracula, I discovered certain ideas people have about vampires. For example, vampires are said to be afraid of garlic and holy water,” said Peng Cheng.

Learning from the past

Besides providing information to children, a lot of the stories in the Usborne Reading Programme books are based on real happenings or historical figures.

These books tell stories about past events in an easy-to-understand manner which is also entertaining.

Contest winner Hema Nair Balakrishnan who received the books Gladiator and Leonardo Da Vinci, said she enjoyed reading both stories.

“Gladiators are brutal fighters who risk their lives in one of the deadliest sports of all time. They performed to huge crowds in stadiums across the Roman Empire,” she said.

The SJK (T) Bekok, Johor, pupil also spoke about Leonardo Da Vinci, the legendary artist who started out as someone who loved drawing and painting.

“His talent took him from the sleepy village of Vinci, where he grew up, to Florence, a city buzzing with great artists and thinkers. Soon after, Leonardo’s amazing artistic and engineering skills were in demand all over Italy,” said Hema.

Another contest winner, Natiya Nyanasegaran from SJK (T) Bekok, Johor, received the book Napoleon.

The story, about a man who rose rapidly through the ranks of the French army, caught her attention.

“Soon, Napoleon seized control of France and then embarked on a plan to rule all of Europe,” she said.

Apart from presenting stories based on historical happenings, the books also impart valuable lessons in life.

“The story taught me that war does not bring people happiness,” said Natiya.

Megan Lai Ji Leng from SJK (C) Yoke Nam, Kuala Lumpur, received the book Marie Antoinette. She recapped the main character’s life as a young Archduchess of Austria who was married to France’s future king.

“Marie Antoinette lived her life lavishly after becoming the Queen of France. Her extravagant spending was partly blamed for the country’s high taxes.

“Due to dissatisfaction with the King who was accused of treason, the people of France revolted. The King and Queen were eventually sentenced to death,” she said.

Megan said that someone with power and riches like Marie Antoinette, should not have lived so extravagantly.

“In her position, she could have helped the people instead of spending lavishly on her own needs,” she said.

Megan also said that she liked the books she received as they were interesting and enhanced her knowledge.

She also received another book, Animals at War. The story was about how animals were trained and used to help soldiers during the war.

“Horses were used to carry soldiers and supplies while pigeons were used to carry secret messages. With their intelligence, dogs were taught to perform more complicated missions.

“In addition to saving lives, many of these animals were loyal friends to the soldiers. Sadly, many of these animals died in the line of duty,” said Megan.

She added that she now has newfound respect for these animals as she did not realise how useful they were, especially in times of war.

Pictures galore

While each winner enjoyed different stories, all of them agreed on one thing: the lovely illustrations in the books.

“I like the pictures in the books! The drawings are very colourful,” said Lerrishea Tan Syuen Zee from SK Taman Megah, Petaling Jaya.

Lerrishea received the books Queen Elizabeth II and William Shakespeare.

With witty writing and beautiful illustrations, books from the Usborne Reading Programme are designed to capture the imagination of beginner readers and build their confidence.

It also aims to motivate and inspire children who find reading difficult or dull.

The collection comprises over 200 books that combine quality writing and design with expert knowledge, imagination and humour to make learning and reading fun.

Usborne Publishing representative Sara Vickery said she was delighted to hear that the winners enjoyed the books from their reading programme.

“Congratulations to the winners. We hope their enjoyment of reading continues!

“Reading is a vital skill — it’s not just something a child learns at school, it underpins everything children do at school. Feeling positive and confident about reading will stand them in good stead throughout their time at school and well into their adult lives,” said Vickery.

This reading programme was developed in consultation with Alison Kelly, a leading expert in early years education, who helped to draw up the seven-level framework.

From one level to the next, there is a gradual but clear progression in terms of subject, style, narrative length and vocabulary.

Books by Usborne Publishing are available at MPH Bookstores nationwide. For more information on Usborne, visit www.usborne.com.

Tags / Keywords: Education, step up mini contest


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