Once again, the Singapore Book Council had successfully concluded another edition of AFCC on 29th May 2022. The event was held on 26 – 29 May 2022. The hybrid delivery was refreshing as participants were allowed to choose between attending a live conference at the National Library or in the comfort of your home through online mode. This year’s theme “Lit Up!” had many representations – from the world opening up again; a time where we could feel optimistic and hopeful to the power of literature that got us through crisis and challenges.
It was my first time attending AFCC and I was captivated by the presenters’ good work and commitment through the books they wrote and other publishing initiatives used to deliver the message of diversity, environment and mental wellness. The keynote “Light up on Literature!” was a content that resonated well with me as an educator and a drama teacher. Having Angie Chew, a mindfulness expert joined by renowned speakers-storytellers like Neil Humphrey, Kamini Ramachandran, talking about storybooks, storytelling and the impact these have on children’s development were inspiring.
Storybooks and storytelling builds imagination, invoke curiosity and allow individuals to learn perspective – how the same concept or idea could have prejudices, stereotypes and biases. Parents and educators should not underestimate the social damage done by the pandemic. Our children had missed two years of proper interaction with other children and adults who were key to their developmental progression. The pandemic had somehow impacted their spontaneity and creativity. Hence, a storytelling activity with visuals would give the children an authentic memory and experience of the theme or topic. Kamini added how storytelling has evolved due to technology but the essence of it is not lost as individuals have the power to be great storytellers by using the tools accessible to them.
In the presentation – Depicting the “unspeakable”, a distinguished Korean author of children’s and young adult fiction, Lee Geum-Yi shared her experience of writing for children and teenagers. There are two important factors to consider in her works – the value of the story as a piece of literature and the educational intention. Geum-yi’s stories portrayed difficult issues such as child abuse, exploitation and social injustice, hoping to inspire readers, alleviate their pain and to break stereotypes.
These presentations made me reflect upon myself as a literacy and drama teacher. Using stories in my classroom is something that I always do. As I plan for my lessons, I must actively ask myself these questions – what do I want my students to learn as I share this story with them? Is it a new culture, a new list of vocabulary or giving hope to those who are struggling with social issues? Expanding the story through drama activities, for example using tableaux, role playing or hot seating, has allowed my students to understand the plot, to analyse the characters and to be able to see different perspectives. These are essential meaning –making components as most times our struggling learners do not understand what they are reading.
I believe, just like Geum-yi, all educators would want to see our students grow as individuals with empathy and be healthy global citizens. So the next time we pick a storybook for our children, we would pay more attention to the value and intention of the literature so that it would leave a positive impact on the children’s development.
By Muzdalifah Hamzah
Programme Manager & Lead Educational Therapist, Speech and Drama Arts
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