R3 Discovery occupies a maze of cosy nooks at Funworks, a co-working center in World City, CBD. Here children can explore, learn, and discover the joy of real books, in a world where screens provide a constant distraction.
“I don’t think parents are aware how much their children’s attention is on their tablets and phones,” says R3 founder Perlita Pengson. “It’s good that technology is affecting the life of our kids, but there are still some old traditions we should keep up, and one of them is reading books.”
Pengson is a former preschool teacher, but the motivation for setting up R3 Discovery came from her experience of bringing up her own children.
“As a mother, I don’t like the idea of my kids spending all their time on gadgets. They affect children’s eyes.”
What about e-books, I ask her?
“E-books are OK, I’m not against them, but they don’t have the same feeling as a physical book, of using your fingers to turn the pages. And it’s too easy to switch to other things.”
(l-r: Perlita Pengson, Miyee Woon)
Co-founder Miyee Woon also talks about the joy of sharing books with her own daughter.
“She will tell me about the story she is reading, and from that topic we will dream far into the future. It gives us quality time together.”
The children who attend R3 Discovery are aged from 5 to 12, a mix of locals and international kids, although the books they read are all in English. They come twice a week after school, for a 90 minute session, and are divided into beginners, independent, and advanced readers.
“Each session has a lesson plan,” Pengson explains. “We begin with a discussion. I might ask them, have you read anything interesting this week? Then we choose a book to read. At the end there’s a short activity based on the book.”
Parents meanwhile can go for a coffee or shopping World City, sit and chat, or even have a read themselves. Feedback from kids and parents has been positive.
“We’ve had letters from parents who have finished the program or have moved abroad, saying how much they got from it. And some parents want their kids to continue after they’ve completed the program.”
As well as the reading program, R3 Discovery has run a Writing Workshop and a Book Creation Workshop, and are developing new ways to share their love of reading with kids. But what do they like to read most themselves?
“Fairy tales!” Pengson says enthusiastically. “You’re never too old…”
Photos: Courtesy of R3 Discovery, Andrew Killeen