It Takes A Village Part 1: For the Reading Enthusiasts and Publishing Industry

*The series of It Takes A Village posts will focus on calling the attention of different sectors. I believe that the problem with education is a concern that all Filipinos should share and that it is a responsibility that calls for the nation’s collective action.

“Reading as a gift.
Read and wait.
Curiosity is awakened, not forced.
Read, read, and have faith that eyes will open,
faces will light up, that a question will be born
and lead to more questions.”

– Daniel Pennac

This April, fifty-three teaching fellows and I joined an organization that will allow us to teach in Quezon City public schools for the next two years. The past few weeks have been pretty much like a tight roller coaster ride full of surprise loops and turns! The best part so far – practice teaching in one of the partner public schools.

It’s almost impossible to cram into one blog post everything we’ve been learning so far about the public school system. But if there’s one thing I choose to highlight today, it would be the issue of literacy.

I don’t think I’d have to emphasize how behind our students in the public schools are. We already know that. We know that many Filipino students are struggling to read, not just in English but in Filipino as well. (I’m not sure if it’s the same case with other languages and dialects.)

For the past two weeks, my co-fellows and I struggled to teach Grade 3 students English, Science and Math. I think we didn’t realize how mentally straining proper code-switching can be! What many of us experienced this summer, though, is that students really responded well to storytelling.

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I spent the past two weeks lugging my books around and bringing them to the classrooms each day. It was quite straining but the returns were definitely worth it. Not only were the kids reading together, pointing at the pictures, laughing at the illustrations – they made connections with the stories and texts they read to the lessons that were taught in class.

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I taught science this summer and during recess, my students pointed out the five senses of different monsters from the book Mythical Monsters. They practiced coming up with questions using the Ask an Animal book. Pictures from the books also made students share about random memories about their parents and life at home. There wasn’t much probing on my end – the kids shared and imagined freely because of the connection we all had with the books.

And those weren’t the only amazing things I had witnessed. I would listen to the other teaching fellows and I was happy when they started sharing about their own great experiences of storytelling and sharing books with kids over recess or before classes would start.

Yes, there has been an abundance of children’s storybooks lately in the market. However, I still appeal to our writers, illustrators and publishers to make more stories – stories that are not just narratives but let’s explore making more informational texts using Philippine context. Students would love to know more about Philippine history, animals, mythology, etc. Yes, there are some that have been published but we need more diversity in children’s books and perhaps we can consider the audience better. This means writing for kids using their language – layout, pictures, font and words used need to be child appropriate. We have enough textbooks to confuse our children. Let’s not add to that, please!

I invite reading enthusiasts to visit us in our classrooms and spend time with our kids. Get to know them, hear their stories, write to them and thank them for reading your stories – because if there’s anything I would like to happen over the next two years, it’s this: to have more of their stories heard because many of these kids need to know that their voices matter and more importantly, that there are people who will listen.

Share your stories and write for Filipino children. We, teachers, promise to bring your stories to life in the classroom. Let’s create a nation of readers! 🙂

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