WHEN THE PERFORMANCE of more than 2,000 pupils of the South City Central School in Cagayan de Oro City was evaluated last year, at least 10 out of 50 pupils in Grades 1 to 3 did not know how to read or understand what they read.
This dismally low literacy rate merely reflects the state of education in Mindanao.
According to the National Statistics Office (NSO), regions in Mindanao ranked lowest in functional literacy last year, with an average of 70 percent.
Dropout rate shot up to as high as 7.3 percent, another NSO data said.
To help address the problem, Amway Philippines, a global direct-selling company, has adopted the South City Central School for its “One by One Campaign for Children,” a project aimed at improving the reading ability of children in public schools.
Amway helped renovate the school library, where a well-lit and inviting storytelling corner was put up.
After months of waiting, the refurbished library formally opened on Oct. 19, to the delight of eager children, parents and teachers.
“A library is a very important component of the school. This is where children can feed their minds and souls. It is our hope that the newly renovated library and the ‘One by One Campaign for Children’ storytelling corner will encourage more children to go inside the library to develop the love and appreciation for reading and learning,” Ador Bonquin, Amway Philippines country manager, said.
A workshop for teachers and volunteers on innovative ways of telling a story was conducted before the project launch.
Captivating the listener
“We teach our storytellers how to reach and touch the hearts of the children. This way, listeners will be captivated by the story and encourage them to try reading the story by themselves,” Bonquin said.
Storytellers use props and visual aids to enrich the imagination of children, as well as enhance their comprehension.
Rebecca Pacanut, a Grade 1 teacher for the past 31 years, said the attractive appearance of the storytelling corner, as well as the new children’s books, had inspired her pupils to read.
“In my decades of teaching, this is the only time that I saw my pupils hurrying toward the library instead of the playground after classes. They have discovered the joy of reading,” she said.
The library now has 3,000 books, mostly donations from the United States.
“We are still trying to solicit more (reading materials),” librarian Arlene de Guma said.
To inspire the children to read and understand what they read, they allow even nonreaders to take home the materials for three days so that the parents can read along with them, De Guma said.
“We also encourage the parents to volunteer as storytellers,” she said.
Sustaining the project is a challenge both for Amway and for the school beneficiary, according to Bonquin.
“The school’s counterpart is to maintain the library and the storytelling corner. For us, we have promised to adopt the school, hence our local IBOs [independent business owners] will continue supporting its needs,” he said.
Amway will also donate computers and more books to upgrade the library. The company’s employees from around the globe will also donate books to the adopted school.
The literacy campaign is Amway’s global initiative to uplift the lives of children all over the world, Bonquin said.
Similar programs were launched to combat child poverty in Africa, provide crucial care for children fighting cancer in Mexico and Brazil, and help disabled children in Japan.
Last year, Amway Philippines received the Anvil Award of Merit under the institutional and corporate category for its One by One Campaign for Children.
Copyright 2007 Inquirer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.