Tuesday, September 26, 2017
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To enrich children’s lives with books

opinion / Columnists
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The Learning curve

To enrich children’s lives with books

Happily, the celebration of National Children’s Book Day does not begin or end on the third Tuesday of July. It certainly merits more than a mid-morning ceremonial gathering of officials and guests of honor in Manila. President Duterte’s daughter Kitty was a storyteller at SM City in Davao. This activity was replicated in all 67 SM malls in the country and seven cities in China.

Early this month Cotabato had its own author talk and storytelling, thanks to book publisher and author Mary Ann Ordinario Floresta, best known for her “War Makes Me Sad” and “My Muslim Friend.”

Today the Philippine Board on Books for Young People in partnership with the National Book Development Board (NBDB) convenes the 2nd Philippine Children’s Book Summit, a biennial event that alternates with the National Children’s Book Awards, also a joint initiative of both agencies.

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Open and free of charge to those interested in the children’s book industry, like teachers, educators, students, readers, children’s literature enthusiasts, published and aspiring writers and illustrators, the summit will be held at the GT Toyota Asian Center, UP Diliman campus, 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Its theme is “Laging Bago ang Mundo ng Libro,” and it proudly features a roster of two international speakers and outstanding Filipino writers. The plenary speakers are Thailand’s Tuttle-Mori Agency managing director Pimolporn Yutisri, who has vast experience in the translation rights of books, and Brooklyn-based Pepper Roxas, who has been drawing attention in New York for her whimsical illustrations in books by American publishing houses. Among our local literary speakers with stellar credentials are Dean Alfar, Eliza Victoria, MJ Tumamac, Padmapani Perez and Eugene Evasco.

The NBDB has had numerous events centering on children’s books, but industry professionals had raised the pressing need for such a summit to discuss issues in the development of children’s books. Up for discussion today are writing for young adults, children’s literature in the regions, writing on sensitive and radical topics for children, building a reading community, comic book making and storytelling.

It is almost expected of schools and reading advocates to organize literacy celebrations. But when a group of doctors like the Philippine Pediatric Society (PPS) decides to mark its 70th anniversary with book gifts and storytelling for less privileged families and special children in Makati and Baguio, one cannot but take notice, applaud, and hope other professional groups would follow suit. Led by Dr. Francis Xavier Dimalanta whose mantra is “to enrich the lives of Filipino children and their families through the joy of reading together,” the book distribution and storytelling activity is a joint venture with the Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Philippines represented by its executive director Marie Asistio Angeles, the Department of Education in Makati, the Cordillera Administrative Region, and Adarna House.

The campaign’s theme is “Keeping Families Close,” which the PPS underscores when it states: Literature teaches empathy when readers put themselves in the shoes of characters, and inspires readers through characters that overcome hardships. Books allow family members to bond in a special way by reading together.

It is encouraging that the PPS will involve its 5,800 doctors in 12 chapters nationwide, sponsoring Ronald McDonald Read to Learn Library Kits of 34 big books for the pediatric wards of local hospitals.

Yet another reason for celebration is Adarna’s recent launch of books translated from the original Spanish texts by Equipo Plantel: “Mga Uring Panlipunan” (art by Joan Negrescolor) and “Ito Ang Diktadura” (art by Mikel Casal). The end pages of the second book feature a gallery of the world’s dictators from the Soviet Union’s Joseph Stalin (1878-1953) to Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang (1942). It is a true hall of shame, with the Philippines’ Ferdinand Marcos (1917-1989) included alongside Adolf Hitler, Idi Amin, Pol Pot and Augusto Pinochet. It is a book that every Filipino child should be mandated to read.

Neni Sta. Romana Cruz (nenisrcruz@ gmail.com) is chair of the National Book Development Board and a member of the Eggie Apostol Foundation.

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