Character Education at the Library

Last weekend, since we didn’t have anything planned for Riley on Saturday, we decided to bring him to the Jurong East Library to return his animal books (Last month’s theme was Animals since we were planning to visit the zoo). This month, he is all into numbers, and so we decided to swap his current books on animals for a Numbers theme.

At the library, I encountered two kinds of parents that left me scratching my head. I wonder if they knew that children copy the actions of their parents. Tell me if you have seen these types before.

Type 1: My handphone is the most important.

This parent was literally 99% on his handphone, typing furiously away on one hand while carrying a toddler in the other hand. I was reading out loud to Riley when I spotted him. He saw what I was doing, pretended to browse some books, picked up a book, and chucked it into his toddler’s hands, and returned to his phone.

Why do some parents think that by bringing their child to the library means that the job is done? The venue is only the beginning.

Type 2: You shall not touch my books!

This parent was sitting with his child. They have selected roughly about 20 books which they placed around them and the parent was reading to the child. Another toddler comes along, and was briefly distracted by the books that this parent had, and took a book from “his” pile to flip. Immediately the parent got all defensive and gave the “WHY ARE YOU TOUCHING MY BOOKS?” death stare to the toddler. He was on the verge of snatching the book back from the toddler, when the toddler’s maid came along and got him to return the book, and brought him to pick out another one.


Ever since the last batch of books we borrowed on Animals, coupled with bring him to the Singapore Zoo, Riley is able to pick up most of the animals names quite well. He knows that the lion roars, because he heard it roar at the zoo, however he thinks all giraffes go “Um!!”. In case you missed our previous post on what he learnt at the Zoo, click here “The Day Giraffes Were Not Tall”.

After spending about close to 45 minutes choosing and reading books, we were ready to leave. And this was when I spotted a trolley that had a sign that said “Please return books here after browsing.” It was empty. I see a lot of books lying around. It seems that parents are fine leaving the books all over the place and leaving it up to the librarians to pick up after them.

This was not the kind of behaviour I wanted Riley to follow. So I turned to Riley, and gestured to the trolley and I pointed to the books and said “Keep” 🙂
He still could not understand, so I demonstrated one book for him to see.

Well, as all learning goes, you will not get it right the first time. This is an NG for Riley’s first attempt to keep the library books.

After a few tries, he decided to practice his shuttle run here.

I get funny stares all the time. But seeing how Riley now knows that he has to keep his books after reading, it is worth it.

A parent must always have a keen eye for teachable moments. If at the library we are more concerned about our phone or about the “ownership” of books that we spotted first, we might miss opportunities to guide our children to learn more important lessons in life.


The Day Giraffes Were Not Tall – Outing to the Singapore Zoo

Riley has a little book with a lot of animals and their names in it. The giraffe is one of them. He is still learning words with two different syllabus so at the moment, giraffes are just “raffes”. He can recognise a number of animals quite easily, without having seen them in real life before. I am not sure if it is because we were animated when describing the animals to him, but to encourage him and his love for animals, we went to the library recently to borrow many animal books with actual pictures and read them to him. He loves to point out the different animals and names them as he points them out.


He also has a teether for him to chew on when he is teething in the form of a giraffe which he fondly calls “Raffe” and a stuffed monkey he loves to hug at night which he fondly calls “Key”.


“Life is made up of the experiences we have. Wisdom is the depth of understanding those experiences.”

While Riley may be too young to understanding all his experiences, we can certainly add provide him with more experiences.

Today we brought Riley to the Singapore Zoo. We brought along his animal book, so that he can make references to them.


We saw the hippo. (“Po” in Riley’s words) He was prancing up and down before he fell asleep in the corner of his enclosure. Two young rhinos we playing and nudging each other with their horns. The white tiger (“Tiger!” exclaimed Riley) was taking a morning swim. He has a pool within his enclosure. The meerkats were rolling around while one of them stood watch as a sentry. The zebras (Riley’s “Bra-bra”s)were…..well, they were not doing anything, just eating.

When we arrived at the giraffes, Riley was amazed. His eyes trailed the giraffes from head to toe and he was going “Woooaah”. He understood at that moment what “tall” meant.


But he had no idea what we had in store for him. We intended for him to have the opportunity to feed the giraffes face to face!

Suddenly, the giraffes were no longer tall. In fact, the giraffe were huge and scary. She was sticking her head right at Riley, zooming in on the snack. Riley looked a little fearful but I guided him to feed the first vegetable. I wanted to see if he was brave enough to feed the second. Riley held on to the second piece and extended his hand a little. The giraffe’s tongue snaked towards Riley’s little hand and her mouth engulfed Riley’s little hand. But the giraffe was an expert at snacking and Riley’s hand was not harmed.

Well accustomed, the giraffe greedily snatched the 5 titbits away, knowing that the next child will have another 5.  But for that brief one minute in Riley’s life, giraffes were big, wide mouthed, snaky tongued creatures that snatched all his food away.

Learning is one of the oldest puzzles of mankind. In each era, we try to decode it, we try to simplify it into patterns, and we try to understand it with all kinds of concepts and theories. But it continues to elude us.

As parents, the best learning we can provide our child, is to spend quality time with them, be examples of lifelong learners by picking up new skills together with our children or exploring new places for new experiences with our children. In this case, by bringing him to the zoo, it made the pictures in his books come to life. It was experiential learning.

Yes, to come up with new experiences and our own parental curriculum and spending quality time with our kids, it is tiring. A Saturday could be easier spent relaxing and lazing around at home.

But that will be wasting the future of our children and not investing in it.