Title from this song. Ah, a walk down memory lane.
My childhood was rife with epic adventures. Whooshing down mountains on cave rivers, battling the Nazis in a Sopwith Camel, fighting for what is rightfully mine with magic, plotting to regain royal thrones, performing in a circus, solving mysteries with my boyfriend Ned, and much, much more.
No, it's not just because I'm lucky enough that my parents were unsuccessful in curtailing my television viewing, but because of BOOKS.
Beautiful, marvelous, magnificent BOOKS.
Enid Blyton, Carolyn Keene, Captain WE Johns, Rubaidin Siwar, Khadijah Hashim, Othman Puteh, Othman Wok, and many, many more has helped fuel my imagination and vocabulary. I became addicted to reading at a very young age, and the habit remains to this day. It got to a point that I was borrowing a book every day from the school library, and I made no bones about harassing the student librarians to open up the gates to paradise. I can still recall the crisp scent of my primary school library, the hushed hall and the rows upon rows of delicious books. Mmm.
School holidays were highly anticipated for the opportunity to haunt bookstores. Those stores were wonderlands for exploration, racks upon racks of fragrant, bound pages that harboured secrets and knowledge. I think my Mom sighed a breath of relief when we discovered the rental book store that carried books that I would read (I was an age appropriate reader up to a point); the money would go for much longer with rental and would save on storage space.
However, I find that the section for children's books in Malay these days are terribly disappointing. I posit the evidence below:
Some desultory fairy tales, and ooh. Encyclopaedia stuff. Exciting.*yawn*
Hikayat Derma Taksiah modernised, most of these.
These pictures were taken at Borders in Bangsar Village 2. Notice that the children's books actually occupied only the top one and a half row of a SINGLE RACK. Those are mostly encyclopaedia types and a miserable collection fairy tale fictions. The rest is taken up by religious tracts and sappy, I-like-to-be-emotionally-abused romance novels. I mean, WTF?
How on Earth can we hope to inculcate the reading habit in our children with such a meager selection? How do we encourage them to explore worlds and dig for information and knowledge beyond what can be Googled? When most of the books are directed to the Malay Muslim audience, how do you hope to encourage non Malay children to love the national language when they have nothing engaging to read?
What happened to the writer of children and young adult fictions in Malay? What happened to the translated books? I remember seeing Harry Potter and Twilight in Malay on display in Popular Books but I don't see them any more.
I got to read Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Jane Eyre, Jules Verne and many more English literary works, not in its original form, but beautifully translated and abridged (I did get on to read them in the original version). Most of my Enid Blyton, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys and Biggleswort adventures were in Malay and what a wonderful discovery it was to read them as they were first published. Those books taught me about life in foreign lands, understanding motivations and reading between the lines, and made me pretty good at comprehension exercises.
The English books selection, on the other hand, is fantastic. You can get up to 6 racks for the young readers and the same number dedicated to young adults. But how do we instill a love in the national language when there's nothing to read in them? Children rarely read newspapers, and most of the Malay magazines for children (except for Dewan Pelajar and Dewan Siswa) appear to be geared only for the Muslim readers. Not to mention that it is darn hard to find Dewan Pelajar and Dewan Siswa in regular bookstores anyway.
Truly, we cannot blame the children for pooh-poohing the national language. Not with this appalling situation.