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SMJK Chung Hwa’s English Corner

Tan Jing Xiang (5 Science 1 / 2006)

Robertson Davie had once said, “A truly great book should be read in youth,
again in maturity and once more in old age, as a fine building should be seen by
morning light, at noon and by moonlight.” When you read a book that is written by
a great writer, the things that you learn from it will be useful to you forever.

A book is a wonderful thing, as it is the stepping stone of our imagination before
it is unleashed through reading. The greatest thing about a book is seen in its
contents and the subject that it explores -- the very essence that runs through it.
The contents of a book are all a stranger’s knowledge, passed down by the writer
that manifest in the form of words. However, there is only one key for anyone
who wishes to access this knowledge; and that is by reading.

When I was young and immature like any pubescent 13-year-old child, I hated
reading like a cat in water. This was due to the fact that a book simply contains
too many words, not to mention the ones that need to be checked in the
dictionary. My English was rather good at that time, for I had picked it up through
watching English programmes on television. Yet I knew it was not sufficient for
my coming future. Everything changed radically after my thirteenth birthday; it
began with my aunt from Kuala Lumpur who presented me a book entitled ‘Harry
Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’. During that time, it was a proverbial novel
among many nations of the world as the movie based on it was a Hollywood

Undeniably, I was absolutely riveted by the acclaimed British novel. In the end I
lost the battle of will and succumbed by temptation to read it. Every chapter of it
is filled with amazing stories and wonderful characters. Every new chapter gave
me new enthusiasm, and it in turn contributed to the greater extent of my
newfound belief in reading. From that day onwards reading became my hobby. I
enjoyed it so much that it seemed unfair for me to have a bookless-shelf, and so I
started racking around for the Harry Potter series to occupy the space(Mind you,
they were not to beautify the shelf, I really read them all).

The momentum was noticeable, and it is still increasing. Slowly but
progressively. Reading has indeed helped to enrich and improve my language.
The teachers saw my command of the language in my essays and when I spoke.
Very soon, my spelling was not as careless as it used to be. Besides that, I have
even broadened my vocabulary and its mastery. Now that I am 17, and having
read many books; I am definitely sure that reading has its own rewards.
By reading the newspapers everyday, I gain general knowledge from all over
the globe, on political issues, economy, social events, society, daily news and
even other knowledge such as the public’s opinion and subjects discussed by

SMJK Chung Hwa’s English Corner

columnist. All these information keep me up-to-date with current events of the
world and guide me in life. If someone talks to me about John Howard, I will
know that he is the Prime Minister of Australia. Furthermore, reading factual
books makes me a more knowledgeable person. Reading books about the
cosmos enlightens me on how small planet Earth is compared to the universe
and stars are actually comets circulating along their respective orbits in space.
When I was indulged in an encyclopedia of tropical plants of Malaysia, I found
out that the Cananga odorata is actually Kenanga hutan, the sweet smelling
flower and Rafflesia, the world’s largest and smelliest flower is in fact a parasite.

When I read about language and culture, I learn about the many unique cultures
and the various languages in the world. Having done so, I am more ready to
meet new people from all walks of life, regardless of race or religion. I am more
willing to accept other people’s culture by being more tolerant and open-minded.
When I was in Japan for my LIONS Youth Exchange Programme 2005, I had
lived three weeks with my Japanese family, adapting according to the
environment and different way of life. At the end of my stay, I gained part of the
Japanese spirit and values. All in all, I have also extended my network of friends.
Besides Kelantan pals, I also have friends from all over west Malaysia,
Singapore and Japan.

It is true that every book has its own rewards, as each gives a different
knowledge of substance. Nevertheless, reading lets me access into all sorts of
realm. It is the key that opens my mind, it allows me to extent my capability to
imagine and to think out of the box. When I read, I let my imagination run wild,
flowing with the text or the storyline. The feeling is almost equivalent to being in a
whole new world. When reading an adventurous novel, I feel like Indiana Jones
in one of his treasure hunts, swinging from rope to rope to escape evil and traps,
while a horror story will usually arouse goose bumps, especially stories like ‘Tales
from the Crypt’. Reading indeed sets off my imagination and increases my
creativity, because I have to imagine the scenes described in a story. This is the
experience one can only gain from reading.

Moreover, every story has its moral values and messages. Some are direct
while others are implicit, it is just a matter of reading between the lines. The
moral values are always there to teach me the right from wrong, while its
messages help me face challenges and navigate me through life. As an example,
all manners of values and messages are present in ‘The Lord of the Ring’ trilogy.
One of its great volume of values is friendship, while the messages are, good will
always triumph over evil. We should never run away from our fears; instead we
should stand determined, and sacrifices are required in order to attain anything.
This gives respect to the phrase there is nothing free in life. From story like “The
Prisoner of Zenda”, I learnt that honour comes before love and that I have to
decide my course of life before it is too late, so as to achieve my dream.

SMJK Chung Hwa’s English Corner

From stories I learnt the values and take heed of their messages, thus making
them a principle that I will follow. Nonetheless, the contents of a book are actually
experience from a writer -- transferred from the writer’s own experience into text
for readers, and those who read it, acquire secondary experience, which means,
one will get an idea of the writer’s experience, but not the entire one. With this,
history will not repeat itself as people will hopefully learn from other people’s
mistakes. The written experience is also a guideline to life, telling me what to do
and what not to do. This is usually found in do-it-yourself (DIY) books or cooking

My love for reading has indeed changed me for the betterment. Truly, reading
has made me a better person, both mentally and emotionally. I am now more
knowledgeable, more willing to be open-minded and much prepared for life than
before. In this era of raging technology and information, I have already equipped
myself with some of the requirements needed – a major part of which is
knowledge. Now I am ready to take up the first leg of my life!


This essay won first prize in the English Essay Competition 2006, jointly organised by
PUSTAKA and Kelantan State Education Department(JPN).