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Toward the use of quality books in the classroom

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AS THE Philippine Book Development Month of November comes to an end, the Department of Education and its attached agency, the National Book Development Board, is undertaking what may be considered a brave initiative.

After a “Booklatan sa Bayan” workshop in Currimao, Ilocos Norte, and another one in Taguig City for the division of Pateros-Taguig—both for public school teachers wanting to know how to push readership in and out of the classrooms—and a literary festival “seductively” billed as “Read Lit District” (oh, what the NBDB will do to promote readership!) at the Ayala Museum and the National Book Awards at the newly opened Old Senate Hall, it is now time to focus on teachers and the print teaching resources they can use.

Can a textbook, even one of the highest quality, suffice in itself for all of the learning needs in a classroom? That being a no-brainer, the first-ever book exhibition of Highly Recommended Supplementary Materials HRSM) is scheduled on Nov. 27-28 at the SM Megatrade Hall in Mandaluyong City.

Publishers were invited to submit titles of possible supplementary materials published within the last two years which an impartial and respected body of readers, the Metrobank Foundation of Outstanding Teachers and Educators, Inc. (NOTED) reviewed for possible inclusion in a list of HRSM. The review process took all of 104 days.

Due to time constraints for this initiative and perhaps the reading fee that was required to acknowledge and honor the time that the NOTED professionals devoted to the project (please take note that not a centavo went to either NBDB or DepEd), the call for submissions elicited only 108 titles from 11 publishers. Of these, only seven titles were rated highly recommended—a less than cheerful statement on the general status of the publishing industry.

These seven titles are “Displaced” by Aneka Rodriguez, “Naku, Nakuu, Nakuu” by Nanoy Rafael, the “Wikahon” compendium from Adarna House Inc., “Cory sa aking Pagkakilala” edited by Margie Penson-Juico and “The Other Philippine History Textbook, Book 2: The American Period to the Present” by Christine L. Diaz from Anvil Publishing, Inc., “Ay Naku!” by Reni Roxas from Ilaw ng Tahanan Publishing Inc., and  “Grandpa Tree” by Bimbo Papasin from Katha Publishing Co. Inc.

Education Secretary Armin Luistro and Education Undersecretary and NBDB vice chair Francisco Varela will open the exhibit at 10 a.m. on Nov. 27 along with National Artist for Literature Virgilio S. Almario.

The two-day conference, which is open to all, has scheduled hourlong sessions with: Dr. Elena C. Cutiongco, NOTED member and former University of the Philippines education professor, on the importance of translating textbooks into the mother tongue; Dr. Rosario Cruz-Lucero, fictionist and professor of the UP Department of Filipino, on teaching with a local cultural perspective;  Kristine E. Mandigma, program director of Vibal Publishing House, on understanding electronic media; Dr. Portia E. Padilla, UP education professor, on online reading; and Suzanne Yupangco, Filipiniana manager of the Filipinas Heritage Library, on the living library. I will host the session on how to choose supplementary instructional materials.

What does this HRSM exhibition of quality titles hope to achieve? Aside from this year’s HR choice of seven by NOTED, there will be all the award-winning Philippine published books from the past years. These were meticulously compiled by the NBDB as a starter list that we know will grow both in quantity and in quality. These are winners and finalists of the National Book Awards from 1981 to 2011; National Children’s Book Award and Gintong Aklat winners and finalists; Madrigal-Gonzalez First Book Award Winners; Carlos Palanca and Memorial Awards for Literature, 2006-2011; MAN Asian Literary Prize Filipino winners and finalists; and NBDB Quality Seal Award-Winning Textbooks.

By making public 1,600 high-quality books through book displays of 19 publishers, it is hoped that these titles will be taken into serious consideration by the public and private schools for classroom use. It is an impressive list and its compilation is noteworthy enough in itself.

It will be posted on the NBDB website and will be made available during the event. It is both useful as additional readings for students and teachers and also for building up library collections.

These publishers deserve public recognition and commendation for coming out with these titles, which may not always be commercial successes.

This is a small step in a series of many that must be taken toward the use of quality books in our schools, books that we will not be apologetic about. Much more needs to be done. We need to make the list grow and to make it more relevant and useful by matching it with the needs of the K to 12 curriculum (for how can a classroom teacher navigate through these volumes)?

Aside from enriching Philippine education, making these titles better known and appreciated will also encourage our publishers to come out with more of the same quality. Go for the Highly Recommended!

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


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