Mr Chou Cheng Ngok, Group CEO and Executive Director of POPULAR Holdings Ltd,
Ms Lim Lee Ngoh, CEO for Singapore and Malaysia, POPULAR Holdings Ltd,
Board of Directors of POPULAR Holdings Ltd. and Chou Sing Chu Foundation,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen

A very good morning to all! I am delighted to be here today for the Opening Ceremony of BookFest@Singapore 2016. This year marks the 10th anniversary of BookFest and I would like to extend my congratulations to POPULAR Holdings on reaching this significant milestone.

2 Over the years, BookFest has established itself as a key event in Singapore that celebrates and promotes a reading culture. I am encouraged to see such effort being made to nurture the love of reading; this is also something that our libraries aspire to achieve through our slew of reading initiatives for all ages and walks of life.

3 Earlier in June this year, the National Library Board (NLB) launched the National Reading Movement. This is a five-year campaign to encourage everyone to “Read More, Read Widely and Read Together”, with a vision to create a vibrant reading culture in Singapore. A key priority of the National Reading Movement is to promote reading in our Mother Tongue languages – this will not only improve our children’s language ability, it will also enhance our own understanding of the many cultures and languages of Singapore.

4 NLB has various initiatives for both adults and children to encourage reading in Chinese, Malay and Tamil such as reading clubs, book recommendations and programmes conducted in the mother tongue languages. Last month, NLB held the Mother Tongue Language Reading Festival 2016, an annual event to promote reading in our vernacular languages. Through a series of fun and engaging activities such as dramatisation and poetry singing session, we hope to inspire more people to appreciate the beauty of our Mother Tongue languages. 

5 Here, I would like to commend POPULAR’s efforts to inculcate a love for reading in our Mother Tongue languages. BookFest serves as a good platform to showcase many offerings from the Chinese publishers and distributors, giving visitors a taste of a wide range of materials in the Chinese language. POPULAR also works closely with NLB and the Singapore Chinese Teachers’ Union to host the National Chinese Creative Reading Competition (NCCRC) to ignite students’ interest in the Chinese culture and language. 

6 I understand that the Chou Sing Chu Foundation – which is founded by Mr Chou Cheng Ngok, Group CEO and Executive Director of POPULAR Holdings – has also collaborated with NLB to conduct Chinese storytelling sessions in our public libraries to inculcate a love for the language through interesting stories. 

7 I am also pleased to note that moving forward, POPULAR will be expanding into the Malay books sectors. For a start, POPULAR has introduced a dedicated section to feature an array of Malay books at 4 retail outlets (ONE KM, Bedok Mall, Causeway Point and Jurong Point), with plans to expand to more outlets to meet the growing demands and interests in Malay books.  

8 Through such efforts, we hope more will venture beyond their usual reads in English and cultivate an interest in their own mother tongue. Who knows, you may even pick up an interest in a third language and culture! 

Reaching New Audience and Encouraging Partnerships

9 Apart from a greater focus on reading in Mother Tongue languages, another key priority of the National Reading Movement is to bring good content and services to people beyond the libraries. I am happy to see that many organisations from a diverse range of industries have partnered NLB to bring reading into the workplaces, and other community spaces to make reading more accessible and convenient, especially for the working adults. 

10 PropNex, for instance, has made available e-books and reading resources curated by NLB to their 5,700 agents through their staff portal; Philip Securities has even organised a book review contest for their staff. I am glad to learn that next year, POPULAR will also be coming on board with us to promote reading amongst their staff! 

11 We also saw another exciting initiative in July this year when Jetstar Asia partnered NLB to launch the world’s first book exchange initiative in the air. Launched on 30 July to coincide with National Reading Day, passengers who departed on Jetstar flights from Changi Airport could select a book at the departure gate to take on their holidays and leave it in the seat pocket for the next passenger on their return trip. What was particularly interesting was that each book also had a section to note where the book had travelled to so that readers could follow its journey across Asia!

12 I am heartened to see that many individuals, and organisations from different sectors, have come forward and shown their support for the National Reading Movement in their own ways. The above are some good examples. I would like to take this opportunity to encourage more organisations – especially publishers and booksellers like yourselves – to join us towards the goal of establishing a vibrant reading culture in Singapore. No effort is too small. There are many ways you can do so and we count on each and every one of your support to help us build a nation of readers.


13 With a series of exciting events lined up for BookFest 2016, I hope everyone will have a memorable time discovering the joys of reading. Remember, “Read More, Read Widely, Read Together”. On this note, I wish all of you an enriching and rewarding day ahead. It is now my pleasure to declare BookFest@Singapore 2016 open.

14 Thank you.