(Re)discovering the joy of reading in November | Inquirer Opinion
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(Re)discovering the joy of reading in November

The brightest piece of news at the start of the month comes from the Department of Education’s announcement that November has been declared National Reading Month by Education Secretary Armin Luistro. This has a tradition to look back on.  In the past, the month was associated with National Book Week on the third week of November since President Manuel L. Quezon’s 1937 proclamation and of more recent vintage, Library & Information Services Month through President Cory Aquino’s 1991 proclamation.

Luistro explains the rationale behind Memorandum No. 244 although it is obvious that students need to (re)discover the many delights of reading, let alone its importance in their lives. But we are nonetheless reminded that students have to be weaned away from electronic media and lured back to reading. It is not that simple or easy for as long as adults around these students, both parents and teachers, are not themselves caught with a book (or its electronic cousins). For as long as reading classes only mean endless worksheets and phonics drills, is reading worth mastering only for these meaningless chores? Everyone loves a good story that make one laugh or cry or think. That should be the lure for young readers to want to read.

A month-long calendar of reading promotion strategies is strongly recommended to draw needed attention to the printed word.  Among the DepEd-suggested repertoire of activities are DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) which gives students at least 15 minutes of silent reading for the sheer pleasure of it, a Read-a-Thon and all the many guises it goes by, remedial reading classes for those struggling with the act of reading.  A readers’ mentoring program where older students help younger ones still learning to read, vocabulary building, and oral reading practice through “A Paragraph a Day” sessions are likewise encouraged. Hopefully, the teachers had advance notice regarding the Reading Month so advance planning was possible.

It is time again to ensure that former Education Undersecretary Isagani R. Cruz’s memo (DepEd Memo 34 s. 2001) requiring the reading of at least two books a year per student is complied with. My initial reaction to this laudable directive was disappointment over the low number of books. I needed reminding that in most public schools and in the absence of school or public libraries, getting hold of a book may be the most challenging part of this memo.

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Perhaps inspired by this memo, during the last summer break, Xavier School required all its students from K to HS students to read one title from its recommended reading list provided all students.  A clever idea for the summer, although again the one book stipulation should be increased.

The National Book Development Board has for the past 15 years celebrated November as Philippine Book Development Month, a special time to draw attention to the creative minds who produce books in the country and to readers who need to be reminded about the fairly unknown treasures in Philippine literature. This year, the NBDB mounts its second Manila International Literary Festival (the acronym in your mind is accurate, MILF) on Nov. 16-18 at the Ayala Museum with the theme, “The Great Philippine Book Café,” a proud and unembarrassed allusion to the title of Alfred A. Yuson’s memorable novel, “The Great Philippine Jungle Energy Café.”  The festival’s proud boast is the participation of two Pulitzer Prize winners,  Junot Diaz, author of the acclaimed “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” and Edward P. Jones, author of the prize-winning historical fiction “The Known World.”  Diaz is coming as a specially invited guest of the NBDB and its executive director, Andrea Pasion-Flores, who is probably Diaz’s most ardent fan.  The participation of Jones is an unexpected blessing.  A personal friend of US Ambassador Harry Thomas, he will be in the country for a visit—and how could his talent not be maximized at the literary fest. Neither does he appear to mind that his travel has turned to be a working visit.

Cebu-based Resil Mojares is delivering the keynote address on the intriguing lead: Where in the world is the Filipino writer?  For details, call  Filipinas Heritage Library at (02) 8921801. Registration is at P2,000 per head, including the kit and snacks.

Anvil Publishing Inc., the leading publisher of books by homegrown authors has kicked off a sale of its titles in all National, Powerbooks, and Bestsellers stores. Read Pinoy, Read Anvil.

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The Manila Critics Circle, in partnership with the NBDB, honors the most outstanding books of 2010 in a formal ceremony at the National Museum this afternoon. It will be the 30th National Book Awards, a milestone in itself.

The Book Development Association of the Philippines partners with the NBDB in a two-day forum on the future of the book on Nov. 24  to 25.

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May all the months of the year be reading months, with or without official mandates. Hope springs eternal.

Neni Sta. Romana Cruz is a member of the Philippine Board on Books for Young People, the Eggie Apostol Foundation, and a trustee of the Sa Aklat Sisikat Foundation. Email comments to [email protected].

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TAGS: DepEd, education, Reading

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