Never too late to discover joy of reading
As the Philippine Book Development/National Reading Month of November comes to a close, it is reassuring that it is not ending with a whimper. In 2012, Nov. 27 was designated as “Araw ng Pagbasa,” another day to highlight reading in classrooms. It also happens to be the birthday of the assassinated hero Ninoy Aquino—what would have been his 85th this year. Not a totally inappropriate coincidence as the former senator was known to be a booklover.
This year, Nov. 27 will be marked with the start of a campaign to bring storybooks to students of public schools. The Storybook Project will be formally launched
at Aurora Quezon Elementary School in Malate, Manila.
All these special designations were mandated by government proclamations and are evidence of serious concern about the decline of the reading habit. Obviously, one of the biggest problems of literacy in the country is the lack of access to books by students (and adults). There are no public libraries to borrow books from, unlike in most countries.
“Sa Pagbasa, May Pag-asa” (In reading, there is hope) is a book donation campaign for public school students. It emphasizes the special power that reading bestows on readers, allowing them to achieve their hopes and dreams toward a brighter future, a brighter Philippines.
But shouldn’t the educational system have done this, in the first place? Isn’t it a serious disservice not to have introduced reading as a most enjoyable life skill?
The book donation campaign of the Storybook Project conceptualized by a multisectoral group composed of the Philippine Business for Social Progress, BDO Foundation, Adarna Publishing House, Coordinating Council for Private Educational Associations, Rep. Jorge Banal, League of Corporate Foundations, BDB Law, Makati Business Club, Association of Foundations, Ayala Foundation Inc., De La Salle Philippines, and Management Association of the Philippines.
At the heart of the project are Br. Armin Luistro FSC, Vicky Garchitorena, and Mario Deriquito. During Luistro’s tenure as education secretary, he noted the dearth of storybooks in public schools and wanted every school to have a reading nook where students could read for pleasure—and not just for an exam or an assignment. A basic problem then was the absence of libraries: Where in the crowded school space can books be stored?
This is somehow addressed by the project requirement that the beneficiary school provide a designated reading corner or keep the books in carts. Foreseeing other concerns that may arise, a 12-page toolkit comes complete with the project mechanics, guidelines for companies/organizations, individuals, donor schools and recipient schools, a proposed program flow for turnover days, and external links with helpful templates.
The program’s running theme is: Donate your storybooks and bring hope to the 23 million public school students aged 5 to 15. The program recognizes the importance of reading fiction for all students as it allows them to develop their own verbal skills and nurture their creativity and imagination. Unlike the typical book donation drives that end up with many textbooks and reference books, this one is more focused: Only storybooks are accepted. Should we be surprised that there is little love for reading after such a limited exposure to the world of books?
Targeting donations of 10 million storybooks each year, the program is an ambitious plan as it envisions a book in every student’s hands. How does this program differ from many others? It aims to introduce students to the wonders of storybooks “that will spark their imagination.”
There are three ways to help: 1) purchase book bundles from local publishers worth P3,000 which are age- or grade-specific; 2) donate new or previously owned books (the cover must be intact, pages complete, and with no markings); or 3) donate cash that will be pooled together toward the purchase of book bundles. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is little need for any more government proclamations and circulars. All we have always needed and continue to need are more books for our students, for them to finally discover what a pleasurable experience reading is. It behooves us to lead them to that discovery.
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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