Understanding Singaporeans: Why Do We Ask These Questions? May 02 2017

When we first mooted the idea of an early reader series on Singapore’s cultural diversity, one thought garnered the most animated reaction among the Epigram Books editorial team: how do we respond to the most awkward questions children ask?

Many adults, particularly parents of young children, would have gone through this: you’re in a lift with your child, who is unabashedly staring at a stranger riding with you, and the kid suddenly blurts out, “Mummy, why does the Indian lady have a dot on her forehead?”

Cue surprised shushing, embarrassed apology and a hasty exit as soon as the doors open.

Since we started promoting the Understanding Singaporeans book series, we’ve received queries about why we picked such titles as “Why Do Malays Avoid Pork”.

To be honest, we had very much the same concerns while debating the merits of these titles. To alleviate those concerns, we made sure to run through the books’ content through various focus groups sourced from representative ethnic communities and associations to ensure that any sensitivities are adequately addressed.

Are All Indians Hindu?

As for the titles, we ultimately chose questions that might best represent what our children can best relate to and would most likely ask, not to mention that they would also grab the attention of adults enough to spark a much-needed conversation on race and religion.

We’d like to ask that you see the Understanding Singaporeans series with the eyes, mind and innocence of a child, so that you can understand how children might come up with these questions in the first place. While we acknowledge that a four-book series written for 5- to 8-year-olds can only scratch the surface of an otherwise complex topic, we hope this series can help adults address at least some of our children’s awkward questions with more confidence.

Most of all, we hope this series can be the starting point for our children to understand the diversity of our country better, so that they can grow up to be more understanding Singaporeans themselves.

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Understanding Singaporeans is a series of four books, each containing 20 questions commonly asked by children on one of four representative ethnicities—Chinese, Malay, Indian and Eurasian.

The books are available at all major Singapore bookstores, and online at shop.epigrambooks.sg.