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Friday, November 2, 2007

After teaching them to read, what happens next?

It is heartwarming to know that the Department of Education (DepEd) is doing concrete steps in encouraging our children to read. Reading is one habit Filipino kids need to develop for their own good and future. Last July, I was among the few adults who reserved and lined up at National Bookstore in Davao City for the release of Harry Potter 7 (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows). The rest were kids and teens accompanied by their parents. It was a wondrous sight.

After teaching them to read, what happens next? What worries me are several factors:

  • Parents' attitudes towards reading. Many of them think that beyond textbooks, they are only obligated to buy their kids dictionaries, nothing more. The most sought-after book by parents in bookstores selling brand-new and used books and even in MV Doulos is dictionaries! Even without the statistics on household expenses, I'm sure, aside from textbooks, other reading materials like magazines and newspapers are l-o-o-o-o-w in the list. The basic needs for food. clothing and shelter would take precedence over reading materials. (Maybe this is why the local komiks industry died.)
  • Sorry state of libraries in public elementary and high schools. Sure there are book donations from Books for the Barrios, civic groups and local/national politicians, but many of these are irrelevant to the academic needs of library users: highly technical books, books on American politics, college textbooks (advance calculus and physics), FVR books, etc. The lack of books and internet connection is one sure killer of curiosity in our kids.
  • Development of critical thinking is not promoted in consonance with reading. One only needs to see the factual errors in Philippine-made textbooks and shudder at the absence of critical thinking in our young pupils and their teachers!
  • Popular culture makes video viewing more attractive than reading. Why read when you can see it indeed! My nieces and nephews' main excuse for not reading: We'd rather wait for it to shown in cinemas and TV.
  • Teachers of non-language subjects (many of them don't even have reading habits) who refuse to go beyond the four corners of the textbooks they're using. They don't even have the initiative to relate their subject matters to current events and other disciplines. No wonder our kids find their textbooks dry and boring!

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