Claire Chiang on Culture and Conservation in Children's Literature

Mallika Naguran is pleased to learn that she is not the only one who hopes to see greater conservation themes in children's literature. A chat with Claire Chiang, an advisor of the upcoming Asian Festival of Children's Content, reveals that the prominent Singapore businesswoman is also keen on the environmental message, in addition to Asian culture and heritage, to nurture sound young minds.

Singapore, 24 February 2010. There is a mammoth gap on the kind of children stories available today that will capture their imaginations and spur them on to be confident and creative leaders of the future, said Claire Chiang, Singapore’s well-known business woman, former Nominated Member of Parliament, author and community advocate.

Claire has just been appointed chairperson of the advisory board to the inaugural Asian Festival of Children’s Content (6-9 May 2010 in Singapore).  Speaking to the media at a press conference and thereafter to Gaia Discovery in an exclusive interview today, Claire believes that myths and storytelling help build destinies.

Claire Chiang: Conservation please.

Growing up with the Enid Blyton series and Chinese books, Claire hopes to see more Asian content proliferating the public space, and in creative multimedia formats beyond the print medium.

In fact, she has a wish list. “I hope to see more content emerging on topics such as conservation, biodiversity, social responsibility, family values, the new age man and community engagement.” Conservation in particular can be given better content treatment through the recently formed Wildlife Reserve Singapore Conservation Fund, where Claire sits as Chairperson.

These values reflect Claire’s direction of Banyan Tree Holdings that has more than 20 resorts and hotels, over 60 spas, around 70 retail galleries and two golf courses on its cards. Signature brands in the hospitality arena are the Banyan Tree and Angsana resorts, spas and galleries.

Claire is the chairperson of the company’s CSR strategy committee; she was also the first president of Singapore Compact for CSR in 2005.

Claire Chiang’s Social Causes

According to its 2008 CSR Report, Banyan Tree seeks to reduce water and electrical consumption and waste production by 10% per year for the next three years.

The mindset of conserving precious resources comes from Claire’s childhood days where 11 family members cramped together in a two-bedroom shophouse unit in Singapore’s Race Course Road. As a family with meager means, it meant that they had to do much with little.

“We had to save water and minimise usage during the water rationing exercise back in the old days,” recalled Claire on the difficulties and inconveniences her family had to go through with so little water. Being thrifty and careful with natural resources runs in her family in other ways too. Her grandmother refried old steamed rice into tasty fried rice with condiments and her nanny re-used shower water to flush the toilet and clean the floors.

“Through scarcity and need, we learnt about conservation. Yet we were clean and self-sufficient,” she said.

Banyan Tree has a slew of corporate social responsibility programmes that include turtle conservation, pre-school establishment on Feydhoo island, Maldives and the planting of at 28,000 trees in 11 countries in which they operate. There is a commitment to plant 20,000 fruit trees in Lijiang to help local communities.

In 1996Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru Maldives embarked on marine restoration by growing new corals after the area was afflicted by coral bleaching as a result of El Nino-stricken warm waters. The corals grew faster using a low voltage electrical charge method called Biorock, using solar power as a clean energy source.

About The Asian Festival of Children’s Content 2010

Sci-fi author Otto Fong will be at the festival.

Over 400 international authors, publishers, distributors, institutional buyers, literary agents and multimedia producers of children’s content will gather in Singapore for the inaugural Asian Festival of Children’s Content from 6 - 9 May 2010 at The Arts House.

The organisers, The Arts House and National Book Development Council of Singapore hope the festival will give a boost to the creation, production and publication of children’s materials with Asian content in all formats. The meeting of international industry players is also aimed at improving the distribution and access of Asian content to children worldwide.  

The festival will host established and emerging writers and content producers such as Singapore authors Jessie Wee, Emily Lim and Sharmini Flint (focus on culture and environment) and Otto Fong (science fiction comics), the Philippines’ Karina Bolasco, publisher of Anvil Publishing, Malaysia’s Teri Tan, international correspondent for New York–based magazine Publishers Weekly, Risuan Aramcharoen, President of The Publishers and Booksellers Association of Thailand, Taiwan’s Irene Chen, a children's literature critic and writer, Hong Kong-based Nury Vittachi, a best-selling author,  Kathleen Ahrens, the International Regional Advisor Chair for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Misako Ohnuki, the Director of Culture Division, Asia/Pacific Cultural Centre for UNESCO, and illustrator and translator, Naomi Kojima from Japan.

And so will Shamini Flint.

Other speakers include India’s award-winning writers Paro Anand and Anushka Ravishankar (‘India’s Dr. Seuss’), and illustrator Atanu Roy, Christopher Cheng, 2009 winner of the Lady Cutler Award for services to children's literature, and award-winning young adult novelist Ken Spillman from Australia, Jeff Yang, founder and publisher of the Asian American periodical aMagazine, from the US, award-winning author Rukhsana Khan from Canada, Greg Childs, media consultant and former BBC Children’s director and producer, from the UK, Nathalie Beau, a pioneer of children’s bookshops in France and a founder of the country’s Children’s Booksellers Association, and Suresh Seetharaman, co-founder of Virgin Comics LLC.

There is something for everyone who is involved in children’s content, from teachers, aspiring writers, illustrators to parents. So check out the programme highlights, speakers and register at

Photography courtesy of the organisers.