I first met Tracy Tang's daughter Hannah and observed her love for reading at a Pecha Kucha Night sometime in 2018. More than the confidence, what was evident was Hannah’s love for reading and books. And after sharing many conversations over coffee with Tracy, it was clear where that love came from.
On moving to Helsingborg in 2017 from Malaysia, Tracy found the transition for her and her family to be challenging yet rewarding. Having lived in a number of countries before, Tracy knew that moving to another country is rarely so easy, however if one welcomes the change and puts the effort in to make friends and seek opportunities, a move can turn out to be an incredible change.
She encourages her daughters to read and lose themselves in the world of books - find their own meanings and let their minds wander. She never had to enforce reading upon them, for they picked up the habit quite naturally.
She spends a lot of time with her children, making learning and reading fun. Her daughter who has her own YouTube reading channel loves to summarize and read books on video to encourage other children to pick up the habit. While experimenting with videos and books, an idea occurred to Tracy and there was no stopping her.
"I love meeting new people and attending events, my mind is always running with new ideas", says Tracy. And if you ever meet her, you will leave feeling extremely energized, perhaps brimming with new ideas yourself. While I was working on my own project idea, I met with Tracy who spoke to me about the need for an English book club for children in the city, something that would make reading fun.
A few weeks later, she realized this could have huge potential for the diverse international community here in Helsingborg and soon found herself meeting with someone at Bibliotek. It made absolute sense to collaborate with the Library, she says.
Speak Up Book Club
The book club for kids and by kids - Tracy finds herself playing mostly the role of a facilitator, for she lets the kids take over and decide how they want the club to run, with of course some simple rules in place. Currently organized for the age group of 6-9 years, the group meets for one hour a few times in a month and is all about having fun.
The children take turns to talk about their choice of book, while all the others listen. What Tracy is also trying to do here is to boost their confidence and promote active listening at the same time. But it's not all about listening - Once a child has spoken about a book, everyone discusses how they felt on hearing the story. Often, she laughs and says, the response is monosyllabic, the most common being "nice". This is when she probes them with questions to express more openly.
With only four book clubs so far, Tracy can already see a difference in some of the children who are now regulars. Their sense of comfort around her, the other kids and the books is remarkable to notice. And this, in turn, motivates Tracy to keep going and let her own mind wander with ideas.
The book club always ends with games! She lets the kids discuss and choose what game they would like to play.
Apart from the book club, Tracy also runs an informal group for Asians in Helsingborg, the idea of which is to meet new people and to have fun. The group can often be found at Olympia playing Badminton or picking up trash at Knutpunkten.
She calls Helsingborg the city of opportunity. The kind of support one can receive from the commune is wonderful, she says. She knew her thought of creating a fun safe space for children was getting real the moment she received such positive support from the library. Her take away from this experience - "If you have an idea, go out there and make it happen."
Read more about the book club on Speak Up Book Club