Leisure reading in multilingual Singapore: Reading enjoyment, habits and preferences of Singaporean children

Baoqi Sun, Chin Ee Loh, Xiao Lan Curdt-Christiansen

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What are bilingual children reading? Do children who enjoy reading books in one language also enjoy reading books in the other language? Drawing on survey data from 1,312 children (aged 9–11) in two government primary schools in Singapore, this study examined reading enjoyment, habits and preferences of two groups of bilingual children – English-Chinese and English-Malay bilingual children. Results showed that children generally enjoyed reading in English more than reading in Chinese/Malay, and that they read English books more often and for longer duration. Within each language, reading enjoyment was significantly associated with reading frequency and reading duration. Crosslinguistically, children’s reading duration and frequency in their two languages were closely related, despite their different reasons for reading English and Chinese/Malay books. Even though levels of reading enjoyment in the two languages were not significantly correlated, results suggested that English reading enjoyment may facilitate Chinese/Malay reading. Results highlight the important role of language policy, the focus of language curriculum and language-specific features in shaping bi-/multilingual children’s reading habits and preferences. Implications for classroom applications and the need to promote Chinese/Malay reading are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)313-339
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Multilingual Theories and Practices
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020


  • leisure reading
  • reading habits
  • bilingual
  • reading preferences
  • , reading enjoyment


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