Read Up! Two Award-Winning Books to Start a Reading Habit

Modern-day kids spend most of their spare time with their eyes glued to the screens of devices, and the bad news is a high screen time is detrimental to their ability to focus. However, the good news is that we’ve got a remedy - books. We are not short of opportunities to snatch up a book from nearby bookstores in Hong Kong - all it takes are some book recommendations to encourage your kids to start reading. Put your digital devices aside and enjoy these selected books!

How prolonged screen time is making children unable to focus
It is important to incorporate reading into a child's life. It sounds intuitive that children should read but it is not surprising that they are too preoccupied to do so - a study by market research firm Childwise has shown that children spend 3 hours online on average per day.  

As shocking as it sounds, do you know that a study carried out by Microsoft a few years ago has proved that humans now have a shorter attention span than goldfishes, as a result of digital overexposure and the lack of healthy reading habits? Reading is indeed a prime training method to lengthen children’s attention spans.  

Imagine using a laptop - do you recall the astounding number of notifications that popped up when you were trying to focus, or the tempting YouTube button on your bookmarks bar, an easy gateway to endless video entertainment? Digital experience is visually stimulating and distracting. Reading, however, takes place in a quiet environment void of distraction. Books offer no visually stimulating feedback either - the vividity lies in the brain as imagination flourishes, not on the screen. We can see the reading ambience is very conducive for lengthening attention spans, a stark contrast with the damage a digital environment can inflict.  

Children nowadays are called “Digital Natives” - they grow up with intensive digital exposure at a time when their brains are still very malleable. In the long run, Digital Natives’ brains will be wired to handle activities that fleet, and this effect is rather permanent. They will become less capable of handling activities that require prolonged attention, such as studying. Therefore there is an urgency to foster reading habits to counteract the harm of skyrocketing screen time.

Selected Newbery Medallist Books

The Whizpa team would like to offer book recommendations from time to time to make books-sourcing easier for parents, and we will start with introducing 2 award-winning books to encourage your child to read. The following books have been awarded The Newbery Medal in 2017 and 2016 respectively. The Newbery Medal is a literary award given by the Association for Library Service to Children, a subsidiary of the American Library Association. It is a highly respected honour in Children’s Literature. The Newbery Medal is the benchmark of high-quality Children's Literature, and a perfect entry point for children to start picking up a reading habit.

1. "The Girl Who Drank The Moon" by Kelly Barnhill

“Once upon a time, something terrifying lived in the woods. Or perhaps the woods were terrifying. Or perhaps the whole world is poisoned with wickedness and lies, and it's best to learn that now.
No, Fyrian, darling. I don't believe that last bit either.”
— Selected excerpt from The Girl Who Drank the Moon

A multiple award-winning masterpiece and a New York Times Bestseller, The Girl Who Drank The Moon is an enchanting fantasy tale for middle-graders. The story takes place in a sorrow-stricken town, where the town officials perpetuate a lie about an evil witch plotting to destroy the town.  As a result, a baby will be offered annually as a tribute to tame the evil witch. However, all the babies are instead saved by a kind witch named Xan.  The girl protagonist Luna, intended to be sacrificed, was saved by Xan.  While other children feed on starlight, Luna was accidentally fed with moonlight that infused her with magical powers.  Her magic power accompanied her in the quest of challenging blind obedience, questioning the status-quo and saving the other soon-to-be-abandoned children. Not only is the story engaging,  it entails a life lesson on the power of love and persistent courage.  An enthralling page-turner to start your child's reading journey!

2. "Last Stop in Market Street" by Matt de la Peña (Illustrated by Christian Robinson)

Last Stop on Market Street is a children’s picture book suitable for children aged 5 years old or above (In our opinion, it is not only suitable for children, it will make a good read for adults too!).  The story centres around a bus journey of a curious child named CJ and his grandma Nana.  The beauty of the book lies in the conversation between inquisitive CJ and his Nana about the less-than-perfect world.

”How come it’s always so dirty over here?”
She smiled and pointed to the sky.
“Sometimes when you’re surrounded by dirt, CJ, you’re a better witness for what’s beautiful.”
— Selected excerpt from Last Stop on Market Street

In the words of Nana sharing her wisdom, the little picture book teaches life lessons, without being didactic, on appreciating the simple joys in life that we have often neglected, and the importance of empathy for people from all backgrounds.  “Kids who are exposed to stories from a young age are more likely to carry empathy in their hearts — without even being aware of it.” said Robinson, the illustrator of the book.  In Hong Kong where we are not short of the abundance of luxuries and comfort, Last Stop on Market Street is a much-needed reminder for both children and adults.


You may find The Girl Who Drank the Moon and Last Stop on Market Street in Whizpa-listed bookstores such as Bookazine, Commercial Press, and HK Book City.