“Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs is good for him. ” – Maya Angelou
A year ago, a You Scooper’s photo that went viral in social media was featured by GMA-7 TV host Jessica Soho. Entitled, ” The boy who reads: A story of hope from a viral photo ” , the online news was about MJ- as he was fondly called – who frequents the bookstore nearby the place where he works as a vendor together with his grandfather. Poverty forced him to drop out of school but his passion for learning did not stop him. He would often visit the bookstore when he has a chance. Help poured in for the boy who loves to read as he inspired a lot of people by his story.
In the United States , there is a national movement called ” Read To Lead” – it aims to create awareness on the benefits of reading and to promote early child literacy. They believe that a child’s early interest in reading is one way to develop future leaders and entrepreneurs – as it will eventually help in the economic growth of a country.
THERE IS MORE TO THEIR CUTE , LITTLE BRAINS – Learning is an inherent trait in children. They are hard-wired for that early on in life. If you are to read to a six month old baby everyday, learning is already underway. Aside from babies’ natural reflexes, they learn by listening to words and sounds, watching their mother’s lip movements and by looking at their faces. You will be surprised that a toddler can pretend to be reading but it was all from memory. Every learning experience turns into a milestone.
Why do you think that reading bedtime stories at night is their favorite? Why writing children’s books attract many authors? The success of J K Rowling of Harry Potter fame – a seven-part book series was phenomenal and translated in 67 languages. Why did children around the world went gaga over a British boy who wears round-eyeglasses from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry? What made the books so popular? These kids love books for sure. Children have a more creative and active imagination. They are curious about their environment and the hows and whys of life. Their brains have a sponge-like feature where they can easily absorb all information for the first five to seven years of their lives. This is the most significant part of early child growth and development.
EDUCATION- RIGHT OR PRIVILEGE? In a third world country like us, thousands of children are deprived of one of their basic human needs – the right for education. There is a tinge of an ugly truth behind our own educational system wherein two or three children are sharing with just one old , dilapidated book. Added to that, the lack of chairs and tables and children who are having lessons under the tree. If you have parents who can afford to send you to a private school – where there is a child-per-book ratio, with enough chairs and an environment that is conducive to learning, then you have a higher chance to learn better and finish school. Although, not all kids realize the kind of luck they have from studying in private schools and top universities – because some even mess up later in life. But that’s another story. And yet, those kids who have nothing are the ones who more determined to learn. They know that they are stuck in the mud of poverty for life if they mess up.
A GLIMMER OF HOPE Future shines brightly though for the children of million Overseas Filipino Workers – because working abroad means dollar remittances that provide for the family’s needs back home – food, medicines and education and eventually, a better life ahead. That fact alone bridges the wide gap between rich and poor and breaks the cycle of poverty.
That being said, not all kids have this chance of a better education at home nor at school. Children in the depressed areas sometimes don’t even have access to any good reading materials except from their neighborhood tabloids about crimes and sex. Blaming the parents for their misfortunes or the government’s neglect and lack of sensitivity on the basic needs of our less-privileged children will not help. But we should never turn a blind eye on this and pretend it’s not happening.
Children from poor families should have other ways to learn how to read . We should encourage them to read informative and knowledgeable reading materials about Philippine history and culture, encyclopedias, Filipino folklores and legends . Our very own hero Jose Rizal learned to read the alphabet at age three. But times have changed. Because of modern technology, a child would readily pick up a tablet or kindle than read a book. Nothing is wrong with that , but the thing is, not everybody can afford these high-technology gadgets and gizmos. Reading books is the more practical way because even an old book can still be useful. Less fortunate kids are even intimidated by huge air-conditioned bookstores and malls.
CONSISTENT LITERACY PROGRAM NEEDED – Back in 2002-2003 , a campaign was held in Robinson’s Galleria , sponsored by Visine and supported by well-known celebrities. Dubbed as “Readshow” – it aimed to create awareness on the benefits of reading and how it helped in their careers. Rotary Clubs of the Philippines also sponsored the same Read To Lead campaign in their respective chapters. But then again, not every poor kid can afford to go to these venues.
In 2011, the Department of Education declared November as the National Reading Month or ” Buwan ng Pagbabasa ” that aims to promote the Every Child A Reader program. Among the activities were : Read-A-Thon, Five-Words-A-Week/A Paragraph A Day , Shared Reading (KaKlase Ko Sagot Ko) among others. These activities were great but benefited only those who are already in public schools and not the out of school youth.
Maybe it’s time that local government units can come up with regular activities in their own respective barangay during this month so it will become a nationwide campaign for early child literacy. Easy access to books is a must. They can come up with reading sessions or put small bookshelves in every barangay for the kids to read for free. We can get the same inspiration from Efren Penaflorida, an educator who started as a poor boy but became CNN’s Hero for his project , ” Kariton Klasroom ” – educating the children in the depressed areas of Cavite.
Books are the greatest gifts we can give to our loved ones. We may never have all the riches of the world to leave them behind, but books are the sources of our dreams and inspirations. And if a poor child could even own one book that will change the course of his entire life… then why deprive the child of that chance?
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