Rhaimie and Rizal Wahap: Novel Ways to Get Kids Reading

Play, Imagine and Create

Left to right: Sophian Nur Hilmi (Rhaimie’s second son), Rhaimie, Siti Haida (Rhaimie’s wife), Ilhan Nur Iman (Rhaimie’s youngest) Muhd Amirul Adeeb (Rizal’s eldest), Rizal, Nadya Syazwani (Rizal’s youngest) and Analizah (Rizal’s wife). Rhaimie’s eldest, is not in the picture.

Left to right: Sophian Nur Hilmi (Rhaimie’s second son), Rhaimie, Siti Haida (Rhaimie’s wife), Ilhan Nur Iman (Rhaimie’s youngest) Muhd Amirul Adeeb (Rizal’s eldest), Rizal, Nadya Syazwani (Rizal’s youngest) and Analizah (Rizal’s wife). Rhaimie’s eldest, is not in the picture.

“Lego is our family toy,” Rizal beams, “and we have already upgraded to Lego Technics.” The illustrator of Mystery Investigators-Five and The Case of the Missing Golden Bird Mask may be a father of two, but is certainly young at heart. The graphic novel is the result of two years of work by the Wahap brothers, Rhaimie, 44, and Rizal, 38, while still holding on to day jobs. Rhaimie, the writer, has three children.Rhaimie and Rizal grew up in a close-knit family, with three other siblings who also display creative streaks. For example, another brother makes crafts and pop-up cards.

Is it in the genes? After all, their father is a carpenter.

Was it Lego? No one knows for sure, but they have been honing that fertile imagination since young, making paper soccer balls, cardboard doll houses and smurf ships.

George Lucas has also exerted a strong influence on the brothers. Do you know that the Millennium Falcon is modelled after a burger? The two brothers rattle off behind-the-scene nuggets of Star Wars. They are impressed by Lucas’ ingenuity in drawing inspiration from everyday objects as well as his perseverance.

Lucas had to knock on many doors before Star Wars was finally made into a movie. For the Wahap brothers, their graphic novel, Mystery Investigators-Five and The Case of the Missing Golden Bird Mask, has not seen the reception they had hoped for but they press on. Rhaimie shares his dream to eventually create a Singapore-based science fiction story and create worlds from scratch. Talent and grit.

Write, Draw, Explore and Grow

Drawing of the Singapore History Museum facade with the towering Rapa-Nui in Mystery Investigators-Five and The Case of the Missing Golden Bird Mask.

Drawing of the Singapore History Museum facade with the towering Rapa-Nui in Mystery Investigators-Five and The Case of the Missing Golden Bird Mask.

Back on earth, the Wahap brothers are responsible fathers and citizens. The novel is aimed at reluctant readers in their pre-teens and teens to draw them back to reading after satiating on handheld games and other digital media. It is also designed to have a strong local flavour capturing familiar scenes like Housing Development Board flats.

Incidentally, the intricate drawing of the Singapore History Museum facade with the towering Rapa-Nui statues help clinched the First-time Writers and Illustrators Publishing Initiative grant for this novel in 2007.

Fatherhood is a window for the Wahap brothers to both derive and express their creativity. Rhaimie’s children have helped him better develop characters that will appeal to the target readers in their pre-teens and teens. He would get his children to read his drafts and see if the storyline excites them.

To scout for locations for this graphic novel, the Wahap families also make excursions around Singapore and take photographs. Rizal sees his passion rubbing off his children who would sit beside him when he draws. His daughter has even received compliments from her teacher in school for her drawing.

Rhaimie, too, encourages the children to rewrite scenes they read in their own way. “To be able to read is nothing…they should write their own versions and draw their own characters…” he says.

Family bonding is important and a high priority for the Wahap family. Looking after one another is a key value that the brothers have grown up with and are now instilling in their children. Rhaimie and Rizal live at stone’s throw to each another and their families interact frequently.

In addition, Rhaimie and Rizal ensure that the children have a good balance of indoor and outdoor activities, as well as freedom and discipline. They observe that their generation of fathers is different from their own fathers. The modern-day father goes beyond being a breadwinner to share in the housework chores as well as break barriers to “friend” their children on Facebook and off.

Playing Xbox has helped in father and child communication. The activity has also given the fathers opportunities to guide their children. Rizal recounts how some of the children were sore losers initially; the parents had to correct that attitude and show that it is more important to put in your best efforts than to win.

Lest it sounds all rosy, the fathers admit that there are challenges, such as the withdrawal from family during the teenage years. Rhaimie notes that his parents trusted him when he went to his friends’ place during his Junior College days but still kept tabs on him and his friends; and now being a parent himself, he accords the same space to his children.

Rizal, on the other hand, likes to stay at home, so much as that on his first date, “alamak, (he didn’t) even know how to order MacDonalds!”

Celebrate the ‘Daddy Years’

The Wahap brothers recognise that each child is different. As such, they have the practice that each child, especially the younger ones, will have his or her own share of new toys instead of only getting hand-me-downs. Parents should also give equal attention as much as possible although it is hard to get it exactly the same.

“Fifteen years since my firstborn son, the years I have been a father are not 15 but 15+12+8. Every child is different and has his or her own years,” Rhaimie quips -clearly someone who looks at things through fresh eyes.


About the Author: The Dads for Life Resource Team comprises local content writers and experts, including psychologists, counsellors, educators and social service professionals, dedicated to developing useful resources for dads.


First published on 29-02-2012

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