No one really denies reading broadens the mind. According to the results of the 18th National Reading Survey released by the China Press and Publication Research Institute in April 2020, the average Chinese adult reads 4.7 books a year.Israel ranks first in the world at 60 books a year, followed by Japan at 40.
As we still march on the journey of a lifelong reading habit, the critical challenge for modern society is how to cultivate it and keep self-motivated when we face a digital world, and how to be a global citizen with bilingual or multi-language skills.
When we take a look to Israel and Japan, family reading tradition matters most.
Children can easily get to books in their living space, and the parents’ love for reading sets a good example for the next generation.
Reading becomes a natural connection between family members, not a forced task set for higher grades.
Reading is happiness itself watering the seeds of true love.
Smart project design to motivate active and independent reading is more important than just chasing results.
The challenges for Chinese parents are the concerns that they are not good enough at English, or lack the ability to choose the proper reading materials for their kids, or are too busy to create the environment for home reading.
How do they meet the challenges for mastering the English language?
That is where the YIYU Reading Center and its professionals come in. Over the past eight years, YIYU has tried to create an environment similar to learning English as a mother tongue. According to Holly Yang, founder of YIYU, there is no specific learning and teaching at YIYU. They value independent reading ability. The best way of learning another language is much more than translation and recitation. If the kids are interested in something in two or more languages, they will ask for more explanation and express themselves.
Learning about the real world
It was during the COVID-19 in early 2020 that Shanghai Daily and the YIYU Reading Center decided to collectively launch a home reading project named News Reading. The project aims to help the kids know more about the real world and lay a solid foundation for the way of thinking with global perspective through news reading.
Good habits start at home
The YIYU Reading Center believes the sound home reading atmosphere contributes most to good reading habits. Parents can share their professional knowledge or some important issues such as sustainability and waste sorting in Shanghai.
After the news reading class, the kids always want to know more about some certain points. So, based on their interest, YIYU recommends a list of books for further reading.
Through English news reading, the children can know more about what happens right now in the world through the eyes of English writing authors and journalists.
At the same time, this reading offers a different way of learning what happens in other parts of the world and our homeland, rather than through tales and novels.
1 million words in a year!
More great news for George is that he has been adopted as a member of the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth for his extraordinary ability in reading and interest in exploration. Known as one of the world’s top organizations in gifted education, the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth is a nonprofit organization dedicated to identifying and developing the talents of academically advanced pre-college students around the world.
The ability to talk and communicate freely in another language strengthens George’s confidence and encourages him to go further. Now George is learning Spanish using the “mother tongue” learning methods.
Now there are eight branch libraries with more than 80,000 English books collected by the YIYU Reading Center, covering classics for kids under 14.
Members of the libraries can enjoy books, offline story-telling classes and the Million Words Reading Project, which means reaching 1 million words in a year by reading novels and longer texts. Through this special project, the kids quickly learn the spirit of persistence and “quantitative change causes qualitative change.”
No single set rule
The challenge is still there for most parents in China. What we need is what British mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead writes in his book “The Aims of Education”: We are dealing with human minds and not with dead matter. The evocation of curiosity, of judgment, of the power of mastering a complicated tangle of circumstances, the use of theory in giving foresight in special cases – all these powers are not to be imparted by a set rule embodied in one list of examination subjects.
Fortunately, free and independent reading shows another way to help kids become a better person.
Questions, and solutions
The News Reading Project is based on three selected reports published on Shanghai Daily every week, mainly about natural science, global culture, medicine, geography and so on. According to a reading expert from the YIYU Reading Center, these topics are selected based on the understanding, scope and interests of the kids at their age.
After reading the three reports selected separately at home, the children are invited to share their thoughts with their reading tutor at the YIYU Reading Center every Saturday night from 6:30 to 8:30pm.
The American reading tutor, Robert, who is quite popular for his humor and erudition, explores the reports and encourages the kids to question, and to find solutions. The last 30 minutes are designed for the parents.
Students are not empty buckets
Educator and philosopher Paulo Freire believed that teaching and learning should be two-way. Students shouldn’t be viewed as empty buckets to be filled with facts but as co-creators of knowledge.
In YIYU, learning by asking questions is greatly encouraged. In News Reading Project, the kids brainstormed how to dredge Egypt’s Suez Canal after a stranded container ship blocked it.
Also in the Million Words Reading Project, there is a special part for self-questioning.
Reaping the rewards
Reading original books can feed kids’ interests and help them become self-driven about learning. This is why Holly Yang and her team have brought their “mother tongue” learning method to more than 5,000 Chinese families over the past eight years.
Many kids following YIYU’s guidance to keep reading those English classics have achieved great progress in both oral and written English.
George, who is only 8, has borrowed more than 5,000 books from the YIYU Reading Center in five years. This bookworm also has 2,500 books at home covering many different topics like science, geography and culture.
George won the grand price of the Star of Outlook English Competition for Shanghai area in 2021, the grand price for the China Daily 21st Century Cup National English Speaking Competition, the grand price in speaking and debating at the English Speech and Debate Pentathlon.
YIYU Reading Center
The Gubei Library
Address: 1317-1319 Gubei Rd, Changning District
Tel: (021) 6219-7319, 138-1836-0736
The Hongqiao Library
Address: Rm 703, Bldg D, New Century Square, 48 Xingyi Rd, Changning District
Tel: (021) 5270-0177, 138-1803-3332
The Sijing Library
Address: 2/F, Renyouyuan, 646 Sibin Rd, Songjiang District
Tel: (021) 6760-2093, 153-0160-1004
The Juting Library
Address: Rm 316, No. 32, Lane 350, Huting Rd N., Songjiang District
Tel: (021) 5765-9065, 133-3192-4125
The Zhonghuan Library
Address: Rm 504, Honghai Building, 2167 Zhenbei Rd, Putuo District
Tel: (021) 6067-1715, 186-0167-8322
The Pujiang Library
Address: Rm 205, Building A, Pujin Xintiandi, Lane 1281, Pujin Rd, Minhang District
Tel: (021) 5431-0027, 131-6643-9575
The Nanqiao Library
Address: Rm 302, Lutinghui Casual Square, 5000 Hangnan Rd, Fengxian District
Tel: (021) 6718-1911, 166-2115-5120
The Suzhou Library
Address: 3/F, Broadcast and TV Youth Training Center, No. 13, Mudu International Movie Center, Suzhou
Tel: (0512) 6262-6242, 153-7000-5151
Tel: (021) 5299-0097