FROM NOW ON, SUMMER for Sarangani’s grade school children who come from poor families would be spent reading rather than playing. But they themselves will be looking forward to the activity as an exciting and mentally enriching experience.
Take it from 7-year-old Emily Gaet, a Grade 3 pupil, whose passion for reading was rekindled during the summer vacation. Her three-hour daily reading session had never been boring or stressful. It also gave her a chance to virtually visit and explore other places.
Every day, from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., Emily and 45 other school children attended the summer reading camp of the Diamalod Ebrahim Elementary School in Lun Padidu village in Malapatan town.
“Enhancing my reading and comprehension skills would somehow put me at par with kids studying in exclusive schools. During summer, they take summer lessons in their school,” Gaet said in the vernacular.
Back home, there’s no book or dictionary, she said. Her chance to read is only at a small school library where four students share one book.
Gaet profusely thanked the Sangguniang Kabataan, with the assistance of the Conrado Alcantara Foundation Inc. (Cafi), and provincial and municipal governments, for launching the program dubbed “Sarangani Big Brother: Reading is Fun!”
Nearly 4,800 beneficiaries, mostly Grade 1-3 pupils, from seven towns now want to enjoy the same learning experience next summer.
According to Gaet, the month-long summer reading camp was just too short to develop their reading and comprehension abilities. Although the program was launched in March, the reading sessions started only on April 21. SK leaders had been recruiting community-based youth volunteers who will mentor the children for the program.
The group was able to tap more than 600 college student volunteers who went through a two-day training conducted by the Department of Education. Each volunteer mentored an average of eight pupils.
Shouldering the P5,000 budget, the SK in the barangay provided vehicles to fetch the volunteers from home to school and vice-versa. The municipal governments chipped in for the training of the volunteers, while the DepEd prepared the lesson guide. The foundation gave lesson plans and other educational materials.
“We want everybody in the community to share the responsibility in providing education to our children,” Cecille Dominguez, Cafi executive director, said. There’s no doubt, she said, that the spirit of volunteerism was still very much alive among the youth with the huge turnout of volunteer mentors.
The summer reading camp benefited the pupils, volunteer mentors and the DepEd teachers. Aside from enhancing the children’s reading and comprehension skills, the program nurtures their passion for reading.
Dominguez said the project “is ideal and conducive for rural school children because of the absence of so many distractions, like television, Internet and malls, among others.” These distractions hinder the full mental development of school children, she claimed.
Joel Berdos, a Lun Padidu resident and seminarian, considered his mentoring job a rare opportunity to serve his community. This kind of exposure is a good training ground for a religious aspirant like him, he said.
“The children can read, but I observe they have a problem with comprehension and in pronunciation of some unfamiliar terms,” Berdos noted.
The pupils called their mentors “Kuya” (Older Brother) or “Ate” (Older Sister).”
The children fetched their volunteer mentors at home and walked together to school.
“When the children return to classes in June, they are already good readers,” Edwina Carbonel, a Grade 4 class adviser at the Diamalod Ebrahim Elementary School said as she praised the reading program.
Principal and teachers were given a free hand to screen the beneficiaries, mostly slow readers, for the month-long activity.
Because of its favorable impact the DepEd urged the program proponents to make it a regular summer activity.