Ms Chen Qin Ying’s two young children own some 85 books between them, but only a handful of the titles were purchased from a physical bookstore. She has also never borrowed library books before for her two toddlers, aged three and one.
Instead, most of her children’s books are purchases from online bookshops, says Ms Chen, 36.
“Online shopping for books is the way to go for busy parents like me,” says the food and beverage industry operations executive.
Time-strapped parents who want to nurture a love for reading in their young children are turning to online bookstores and book subscription services to build up their kids’ home libraries with good titles.
Ms Chen shops at locally-based online bookstores Owl Readers Club and Flip For Joy at least once a month, spending about $75 in total on three to four titles each time.
Owl Readers Club offers both English and Chinese books for children under seven, while Flip For Joy offers Chinese books for children aged up to six years.
She likes that the books usually arrive within a few working days, compared with weeks from overseas- based online bookstores such as Book Depository.
She also appreciates the fact that she can easily refer to reviews online to see if the titles she has shortlisted are worth buying.
“Time is precious,” she says. “Buying books for my kids online is much faster than spending time searching for books at a library.”
Mrs Tiffany Lim, 28 (pictured), agrees.
The secondary school teacher has two toddlers aged three and one, and has been buying books for them online in the past year or so.
“It is less convenient for me to take two kids to the library. Even when we get there, I don’t have the luxury of time to browse through the titles available,” she says.
Parents that The Sunday Times spoke to also note that while local libraries are well-stocked with both English and Chinese books, popular titles are often not available because they are frequently on loan to others.
Another lament from parents is that the libraries’ search catalogues for Chinese books can be hard to navigate, even for those who are bilingual.
This is because of the way authors’ names are translated, especially for Chinese titles that are translated from another language.
To minimise frustration and time spent browsing the shelves, parents such as Mrs Lim turn to the Internet instead.
She shops at least once every two months at Once Upon A Bookstore. The locally-based online bookstore stocks a variety of Chinese books for children aged up to six years old.
Mrs Lim says: “I like their interesting range of titles. Besides books for reading, there are activity books in Chinese too.”
Parents say the appeal of online bookstores also lies in their ability to offer a well-curated and wellorganised collection for children.
With a few clicks of a mouse, parents can browse titles according to book type and age suitability.
Some popular categories include award-winning titles in both languages, books with interactive elements, as well as books that focus on character-building and the teaching of good values.
Ms Lee Shumin, 33, who works as a consultant in a multinational company and has a two-year-old son, says she gets “especially excited” when children’s books with interactive elements such as lift-the-flap or touch-and-feel features are in stock.
“Such titles are very attractive to young children, but hard to find in libraries. The copies that I find are often torn and tattered from frequent flipping and misuse,” she says.
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