A Recipe For Reading

@Hannah Seniors Activity Centre, 10th July 2019

As part of our reading advocacy month Cru Singapore Media Ministry (MM) was most thankful for the opportunity to visit and share with the seniors from Block 21, Toh Yi Drive, who frequent the Hannah Seniors Activity Centre (HSAC), which is located in the same block. HSAC is run by Presbyterian Community Services (PCS) whose purpose through the ‘Centre is “…to reach out in partnership with the community to engage and support senior residents to ‘age-in-place’ and remain active for as long as possible.”

HSAC engaged MM in 2016 as consultant in establishing the ‘Centre’s ‘Library Corner’ and, as we reported back then, our hope and prayer was to be able in due course “…to provide reading engagement talks with the residents to promote and encourage use of the library corner.”

Thus, in line with our activities, promotions and articles promoting reading this month, we were delighted for the opportunity to make our hope and prayer come true! As such, we were most thankful to Desmond Soh, who is overseeing the provision of activities at HSAC, for his enthusiastic support toward a reading engagement activity for the ‘Centre’s senior community.

The programme was entitled “A Recipe for Reading” as a means to captivate the senior residents with a penchant for cooking and good food (in other words, a Singapore audience!). Given their generation we felt that it would resonate with them. We chose a selection of titles from the ‘Centre’s Library Corner to highlight the variety of reading flavours on offer.

The ‘recipe’ started, naturally, with an ‘Appetiser’, which were choice quotes on the efficacy and joy of reading, for example, from Voltaire, “Let us read and let us dance; these two amusements will never do any harm to the world.” A delightful message that all of us can agree with in these days.

The opening ingredient to the main course was “A Pinch of the Imagination” in which short extracts were read out to encourage the residents to read and listen to a narrative to gauge its genre and guess the title displayed before them. These included the contemporary novel, “About Schmidt”, a delightful historical reference, “Bad Days in History: A Gleefully Grim Chronicle of Misfortune, Mayhem, and Misery for Every Day of the Year”, a health-conscious recipe book, “Everyday Vegan Eats”, and quirky humour from, “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”.

Other items on the menu included a foray into Manga whereby the participants were given a panel from Kelly Kozumi’s “Manga Genesis 3” with a missing caption. They were tasked with choosing the correct caption from a list of possibilities. This activity was served to illustrate how the reader ‘gets into the head’ of an author. However, in some sense we also fill in gaps that the author has not written. Our own experience and reflection make the reading experience very unique, even if the book is the same one, it may ‘speak’ to people differently.

A little more ‘meaty’ topic, the evidence from scientific research on the efficacy of reading, was also served. For example, the potential for reading (amongst other brain stimulating activities, e.g. chess) to delay on the onset, or slow down the progression, of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia; reading’s seeming ability to reduce stress (heart-rate down by 68%) in comparison to other activities, i.e. listening to music (61%) or taking a walk (42%); a 12-years study that suggested a reader’s lifespan could be up to 2-years longer when compared with a non-reader; and the ‘other’ centric quality of empathy, whereby a reader is inspired “to imagine a character’s introspective or reflective thoughts – their heart.” Such awakening a reader’s capacity to ‘walk in another’s shoes’.

A Recipe for Reading naturally finished with desert, in this instance, a specially designed cake to thank the residents and HSAC for the opportunity to encourage the Hannah community to ‘take up and read’ from their Library Corner.