The rallying cry of the eight-year old Sa Aklat Sisikat Foundation (SAS), as it pursues its dream of building a nation of readers, does seem an ambitious goal when one considers the limitations of the present public school system.
To endeavor to promote the love and habit of reading among students from schools where libraries and librarians are luxury “items,” or even nonexistent because of limited budgets, may appear detached from reality. Yes, just like Sisyphus in Greek mythology and his eternal curse that condemned him to roll a huge boulder up a hill only to see it come down again each time.
Even as we in SAS are somewhat encouraged that, from 1999 to the present, our 31-day Reading Program for Grade 4 students has reached over 500 schools and directly benefited over 150,000 students, we know what little impact this has had on the entire public school system.
But this is all too familiar. Do we just continue to lament about all the ills we see (What is not going right in public schools? Let me count the ways…) and not do something concrete and positive, even if that “something” is admittedly a drop in a bottomless bucket?
It is far easier to throw up our arms and give up, but something tells us that we should not choose such a cowardly way out.
Miguel Santos, a letter sender, made a disturbing comment. He sees himself as an avid reader, but he says no amount of reading campaigns will instill the reading habit in students, and book donations will go nowhere because they will only end up in secondhand outlets.
While I empathize with his disenchantment, I find it difficult to leave such complaints at that level. Let us refocus on reading and the many little things teachers can do to encourage the habit. Here are some of those things (read: tips); many of them come from celebrity readers. Teachers weary of “reading theories” will find these tips refreshing and helpful for these remaining three months of the school year.
1. Build up confidence in students. Boy Abunda credits his rags-to-riches story to his mother, a public school teacher of 43 years who led him to his passion for reading.
2. Reading of fairy tales is important to children because it prepares them for the realities of life. Dr. Marjorie Evasco, poet and literature professor of the De La Salle University, also recommends a poem a day and reading a book a week.
3. Children should be given the chance to learn about their society and their country. Dr. Bienvenido Lumbera, National Artist for Literature and Ramon Magsaysay Award recipient, says books promote love of country.
4. With good storytelling, children get hooked on reading and the world of books. Bodgie Pascua, veteran actor, reminds teachers of their special responsibility to make books come alive in their classrooms.
5. Encourage kids to read. The art of reading is fading fast as kids get distracted with iPods, the Internet and TV. Fr. Johnny Go, director of Xavier School, says the keen competition with media can be overcome.
6. Inspire! Children derive their inspiration from great teachers. Broadcast journalist Karen Davila reawakens in teachers their ability to make their students reach out for the stars.
7. Books let us see the world and ourselves in a different light. We become a better person through reading. Sociologist and columnist Randy David emphasizes the seemingly obvious and yet little known.
8. You can only shape people by the way you were shaped. You cannot teach kids the love of reading if you yourself don’t have it in you. Onofre “Mr. Pagsi” Pagsanghan, well-loved Ateneo High School teacher and drama mentor, stresses the basic.
9. Employ classroom dramatics in teaching reading. Your body is your best visual aid. Dr. Ricardo Abad, professor and actor, has even used an umbrella and a ladies’ handbag while teaching -- precisely to attract class attention.
10. How can we encourage our students to read when we ourselves do not read? Dr. Paraluman Giron, regional director of the Department of Education’s Mimaropa region (comprising the provinces of Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan) and educator for over five decades, asks this basic question.
11. Read for its own sake -- it makes minds supple and is the best way to learn to use and manipulate language. Butch Dalisay, writer and professor, recommends a reading edition of popular entertainment shows.
12. Museum visits can be a stepping stone to reading. John Silva, writer and museum curator, strongly recommends field trips to museums rather than to TV shows.
To promote museum consciousness, Museo Pambata is hosting the first Asian Children’s Museum Conference on Feb. 23-26 at the Manila Hotel with the theme, “Children’s Museums as Bridges of Peace.” There will be a special session on books and storytelling. For more details visit the conference website www.museopambata.org/acmc or call Nina Lim Yuson at +632 4007558.
Neni Sta. Romana Cruz is a member of the Philippine Board on Books for Young People and a trustee of the Sa Aklat Sisikat Foundation. Email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.Copyright 2008 Philippine Daily Inquirer. All rights reserved.