Book Nook: Introducing Singapore to young readers through ABCs

SINGAPORE – Why should A be for apple and B be for ball?

Authors Kshama Alur and Akhila Das Blah thought it would be fun for young readers to associate the letters with “Ah Ma” and “Botanic Gardens” instead.

Their alphabet board book, titled A To Z Of Singapore, features local food, places of interest, games, culture and more.

The two mothers and long-time friends took a year to come up with this edition, fashioned after their company Indigrow’s first book A To Z Of India, which has since been turned into a themed collection with flash cards, puzzles and memory games.

Kshama tells The Straits Times that her son Neil Kohler, now three years old, sparked the idea for these books. “We are a multicultural family. I was born in India, my husband Richard was born in South Africa and we have been living in Singapore for over a decade,” says Kshama, who declined to reveal her age.

“When I was pregnant, I knew that I wanted Neil to grow up with exposure to different cultures. The world is getting more diverse and global, and I wanted him to get to know his roots and also his environment in a delightful way.”

In A To Z Of Singapore, illustrated by Kristen Kiong, D is for durian and O is for ondeh ondeh.

It is a pity that Kshama’s favourite food did not make it into the pages. “No one can stop me if I have a craving for char kway teow or pepper crab,” she says.

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But she managed to include many fond memories in Singapore. “I had a fish wiggle out of my hand in the wet market,” she recalls. “The uncle at the stall was as astonished as me.” This became the idea for the letter W, which reads: The whitefish wiggled out of the wet market.

The entry for the letter B (“The banded langurs are playing badminton in the Botanic Gardens”) was inspired by an incident when a monkey took her shuttlecock when she was playing badminton in a park.

The book, which taps Akhila’s expertise as an early childhood professional, includes suggestions on how parents can read the books with their kids and ask questions.

Kshama, who started her career in brand marketing, now runs Indigrow and a sustainability consulting company The Better Alternative that she founded.

She plans to work on other editions featuring Asian countries such as China, Japan and South Korea. “It is important to me to raise a third-culture kid who can embrace diversity and every culture he interacts with in the future,” she says.

  • A To Z Of Singapore ($17) is available at www.indigrowkids.com

WHAT TO READ WITH YOUR CHILD

Kshama Alur recommends these Singapore-themed books.

Afternoon Tea At Raffles Hotel


Afternoon Tea at Raffles Hotel inspired Kshama Alur to take Neil to the Singapore Zoo for his first birthday. PHOTO: ETHOS BOOKS

By Fleur Vella-Chang

Ethos Books/ Hardcover/ $16.95/ Available here

“We got this adorable book when Neil was a baby. I remember how fascinated he was with all the animals and landmarks. It even inspired us to take him to the Singapore Zoo for his first birthday.”

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Lost In Singapore

By Matthew Cooper, illustrated by Candice Phang

Kingfisher Books/ Paperback/ $14.98/ Available here

“This is a lovely book about a boy and his adventure in Singapore, sparking the love for exploration in the little ones. It even includes elements of animal endangerment awareness which I really like.”

The Little Singapore Book


The Little Singapore book is packed with fantastic details about Singapore from the old Temasek kingdom to present day. PHOTO: PEPPER DOG PRESS

By Sim Ee Waun and Joyceline See Tully, illustrated by Diane Ng Rose

Pepper Dog Press/ Hardcover/ $26.75/ Available here

“In reality, a not-so-little book; it’s very substantial. This is packed with fantastic details about Singapore from the old Temasek kingdom to present day. The vibrant illustrations add to the story, giving a really in-depth view on Singapore’s history for young readers.”

  • This is part of a series where experts give tips on how to get kids to love reading.

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