30th Anniversary of the Popular Reading Award Scheme Continued Promotion of Reading as Time Changes

PTU News Reporter

The annual Reading Carnival will take place in Victoria Park on November 24th, marking the 30th anniversary of the Popular Reading Award Scheme organised by the Hong Kong Professional Teacher’s Union (HKPTU). As the organiser of the reading movement of the longest history in Hong Kong, the HKPTU devotes itself to encouraging reading among students through a wide variety of activities. For this issue’s cover story, HKPTU Executive Committee members will share their moments coordinating the Scheme with us.

The Popular Reading Award Scheme was launched in 1988. Mr Szeto Wah explained to newspapers at the time that the HKPTU had observed an increase in interest in reading among local students and believed the trend should be encouraged and popularised. The Popular Reading Award Scheme was led by then HKPTU executive committees WONG Hak-lim, CHIU Chi-shing, and LAW Ping. More than 50 schools participated in the first year. In 1988, other activities including Joint School Reading Camp (suspended), Reading Carnival, Secondary Students’ Best Ten Books Election, and Let’s Listen to Writers Talk Sessions became part of the project and took place annually.

More Than 190,000 Received Green, Blue, and Purple Badges of Honour

Most would remember the Popular Reading Award Scheme by its iconic Green, Blue, and Purple Badges. CHAN Hon-sum, then HKPTU Academic Department Director and current member of senate, who has been directing the Popular Reading Award Scheme for more than twenty years, recalls that committee of the time had hoped to assist teachers in promoting reading through the power of the HKPTU. Inspired by the Duke of Edinburg’s Award, they created the Green, Blue, and Purple Badges of Honour.

The Green, Blue, and Purple Badges of Honour remain popular among teachers and students. More than 190,000 students have received these badges, among which 45,000 have received the Purple Badges, the highest honour of three. CHAN remembers spotting three boys in class reading day and night only to compete for the Purple Badge. ‘The promotion of reading requires different tactics. Some are attracted by the content of the books, others by healthy competition.’

The Secondary Students’ Best Ten Books Election is another highlight. The Popular Reading Award Scheme committee selects 50 books from authors’, principals’ teachers’, publishers’, and parents’ recommendations. Students then vote to select Ten Best Books for Secondary Students and Best Beloved Author/Writer of Secondary Students.

Jing-yong and Giddens Ko Received Awards Personally at the HKPTU

Numerous Best Ten Books are written by local authors, including the late Louis CHA Jing-yong. His famous work The Book and the Sword, published in 1975, was among the ten favourites of secondary students in 1998. Deputy Director of the HKPTU Academic Department CHAN Yan-kai reminds us that, in the 2016 Hong Kong Book Fair’s exhibition of Louis CHA Jing-yong, exhibits included manuscripts and award certificates of the Secondary Students’ Best Ten Books Election.

Local authors are joined by overseas authors in the Secondary Students’ Best Ten Books Election. CHAN Hon-sum takes Taiwanese author Giddens Ko as an example. His book Kung Fu was among the Ten Best Books in 2009. Ko even travelled to Hong Kong to receive the award in person and thanked the HKPTU in his speech. Two years later, his book You Are the Apple of My Eye was adapted into a film. Ko then quickly gained fame in the Greater China region.

Secondary Students’ Best Ten Books Election Referred to by Teachers and Publishers

The Secondary Students’ Best Ten Books Election not only serves as a valuable reference for teachers, but also for local publishers. CHAN Yan-kai claims that many bookstores curate a shelf according to the Secondary Students’ Best Ten Books Election to attract readers and to show that the quality of the books is ensured by a prestigious election.

In addition to the promotion of reading itself, the Popular Reading Award Scheme also makes it possible for students to meet and greet their favourite authors by organising Let’s Listen to Writers Talk Sessions. ‘It started as a sharing in the meadow at Grantham College of Education, where authors like Xiaosi and A Nong exchanged ideas with students in a relaxing setting. Students could gain a better understanding of the author and their works’, explained CHAN Hon-sum. For students’ convenience, the HKPTU now invites and arranges for authors to give talks at schools.

11.24 Reading Carnival  Diverse Activities to Spark Interest in Reading

Successfully organising a reading movement over such a long period of time is no mean feat. Times have changed and technology advances. President of this year’s Popular Reading Award Scheme committee and Director of HKPTU Academic Department WONG Mei-kei points to students’ increased amount of homework and tests as the culprit for the lack of reading. The HKPTU has been organising the Reading Carnival for 30 years to promote reading through cultural and recreational activities. More than 50,000 citizens visit the Carnival every year.

Wong points out that the Carnival activities such as game stalls, drama competition, and folksong competition help students understand reading comes in various forms and spark their interest in reading. The choice of venue, Victoria Park’s Central Lawn, is easily accessible and has become a communal platform to promote reading among the public. The 30th Reading Carnival will take place in Victoria Park’s Central Lawn on the 24th November. Teachers, parents, and students are all invited!