Which bookshop in Malaysia is the best for English books for children? Kinokuniya, MPH, Borders, Times, BookXcess, or Popular?
My wife and I have been encouraging our only son, Zachary, to read since he was only one month old. It is inspiring to see him, now age 5 years old, to select a book from his library to read on his own. Zachary loves reading, and he always brings two to four books to accompany him in bed at night. He enjoys reading more than watching TV or playing with the computer.
How did we encourage him to read? It helps a lot that my wife and I read a lot, and our home has a huge library of books. Zachary is growing up in an environment of books, so he must have sensed the importance of books in our lives. Moreover, my wife and I do not often watch TV. This “lack of TV presence” must have left an important imprint on Zachary because he will become bored, restless, and tired with any more than an hour of watching TV.
Zachary’s love of reading is a product of the reading aloud system. What is reading aloud? It is a habit of a consistent reading to your child and choosing the right books for your child. Reading aloud is storytelling based on a book. You hold and show the book to your child, and as your child is looking at the pages, you read aloud to your child, using whatever intonation and expression necessary to emphasize the story. That way, your child feels excited and entertained by the story. Your child will initially pick up a word or two from these books, but this learning process accelerates over time. Your child will build up his or her vocabulary at a rapid rate.
Reading aloud teaches your child the valuable skill of reading. But most importantly, reading aloud inculcates the love of reading within the child so that reading becomes a pleasurable activity.
A strong reading habit encourages self-learning skill badly needed later in life. Reading changes the way your child thinks, speaks, and behaves. Observe and compare children who read a lot and those who do not. The differences between them are not subtle.
Choosing the right books for your child is important. The following are my suggestions for choosing the right books for your young child:
- Choose books that both you and your child enjoy reading. My child, Zachary, for example, loves books about machines such as cars, trucks, planes, trains, and construction vehicles.
- Vary the reading materials to include non-fiction such as history and science.
- Choose books that have bright and large illustrations.
- Choose books that have a strong and memorable storyline.
- Choose books that have an inspiring or satisfying conclusion.
- Choose books that have sentences that rhyme and have repetitive words.
- Do not assume that books written by famous pop stars or actors are always good. Even authors who typically write books for adults may not necessarily write good children books.
- Avoid books that are dull or have uninspiring stories.
- Avoid flashcards because the words on these cards exist without context. Learning words through flashcards become too academic and boring to your child.
What about local books for children? Unfortunately, local books fall far short of the quality typically found in international books. Some local books have beautiful illustrations, but they are often let down by poor storylines or contain cursive words that are difficult to read for young children or the words are too small.
Which bookshops in Malaysia?
Fortunately, finding English children books in Malaysia is simple. However, not all bookstores are the same. Here is my ranking of bookstores in Malaysia that carry the best English children books:
Rank 6 (The Worst).
Popular – A bookshop more suited to find Chinese-language books than English children books. Popular is not a place to find rare or unusual children books. Nearly all English children books found in Popular are the usual Disney, Barney, Dora, Sesame Street, and Ben 10 books. The best Popular branch to find children books is IPC mall (formerly, Ikano) but even then good English books are found wanting. One advantage of Popular over other bookshops is Popular carries out frequent book sales and its store members often get additional discount.
Times – A bookshop that is slowly dying and it shows. Good or unusual children books are often difficult to find here. If you have to go to Times, try the branch at Pavilion or at Hartamas Shopping Centre.
MPH – This is perhaps the bookshop with the most branches in Malaysia. The best branch to find English children books is in 1Utama. Finding good books in other MPH branches is a bit of hit-or-miss affair. The Midvalley MPH branch used to be a good place to find books. However, they have recently moved into a smaller lot, and with that move, the quality of English children books have taken a huge hit.
Borders – A newcomer in Malaysia and the best branch is at Curve mall. What I like about Borders is they carry children books that are typically not found in Times, Popular, or MPH. Moreover, they have recently introduced membership so that store members get a discount on all books.
BookXcess – A surprise entry to some folks here because BookXcess is not known widely among Malaysians. They are the organizer of the extremely popular Big Bad Wolf Book Sale. BookXcess has only one branch, and it is located at Amcorp mall. BookXcess is THE place to find really cheap children books. Discounts can be high as 50 to 70%. Moreover, a good number books sold here are those that cannot be found anywhere else in Malaysia. They also offer store membership, but additional discounts (as though their 50 to 70% discounts are not high enough) are only given for purchases above RM100.
Rank 1 (The Best).
Kinokuniya– Found only at KLCC, Kinokuniya bookstore is a dream haven for book lovers. Kinokuniya is by far the best bookshop in Malaysia, not only to find children books but also to find any books in general. Children books found here are also typically not sold anywhere else. Kinokuniya beats BookXcess simply because Kinokuniya carries far more books than BookXcess. And if you have difficulty looking for a book title among the bookshelves, Kinokuniya staff are trained to find the book for you, and not just point at the general direction at where your book could be found. Kinokuniya also offers store membership for 10% discount on all book purchases.
So, if you are a parent looking for quality English children books, you only have two places to go: BookXcess at Amcorp mall and Kinokuniya at KLCC. Both these places carry children books not found elsewhere. BookXcess is a great place to buy books at bargain prices, and Kinokuniya is a place that overwhelms you with book choices.