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Booklatan: Open books, open minds

MANILA, Philippines – “Let them fall in love with the story first, then the love for reading will follow,” advised Tony Yanza, resource speaker of the Booklatan (or Open a Book) sa KDC at the Palawan State University in Puerto Prinsesa City.

As the workshop partici-pants later found out, however, getting young people to develop a love for reading is easier said than done. Appreciation for the written word requires as much effort from the teacher as from the students.

Booklatan sa KDCs is part of the Booklatan sa Bayan program, a series of training activities focusing on heightening readership awareness and the promotion of good reading habits. The Knowledge for Development Center (KDC), in partnership with the National Book Development Board (NBDB), World Bank in the Philippines, and the Office of the Publishers (EXTOP) in Washington DC, is bringing the program to the universities that are part of the KDC network nationwide. The program also intends to promote World Bank publications to help steer the dialogue on development issues among the youth.

During the first part of the session, teachers, librarians and daycare volunteers were given a workshop on basic storytelling. “As with any good performance, the effect you have on your audience will greatly depend on your choice of reading material and how you can effectively deliver your story,” advised Yanza.

Aside from choosing the appropriate reading material, he also explained the importance of voice and facial expressions. To demonstrate this point, Yanza led the group in a storytelling exercise using well-known children’s songs, rhymes and bedtime stories.

“I’ve forgotten how much fun this is!” exclaimed a participant.

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Yanza also advised participants to guard against getting carried away with storytelling techniques. “Although storytelling is more of a performance than mere story reading, the performance of the storyteller should not outshine the significance of the book/story,” Yanza said.

He noted that reading materials with graphic images also help young people have a better grasp of the story they are reading. One of the materials that participants were asked to read aloud was the World Bank manga comics, a series of stories about a young boy who dreams of becoming a great martial artist. During his journey, Rei, the main character, is faced with challenging experiences that concern global issues such as poverty, global warming and HIV-AIDS. Letting kids read the comics version of seemingly serious topics helps them understand the material better and keeps them interested. “The fact that it’s written in installments makes the kids anticipate what will happen next and have time to ponder on the latest story that they read,” shared another participant.

The second part of the workshop was the Readership Enhancement and Advancement (READ) Program. Participants in this session were given an institutional framework for reading which included ideal elements for pre-during-after reading activities. Aside from the framework, educators were also taught a series of techniques to test whether the students really understood the story they just read.

Iloilo Reading Club

Another KDC that took part in the Booklatan program was the Central Philippine University in Iloilo. They had gone through the same workshops last January and found the sessions enjoyable and useful. The storytelling workshop was handled by Manolo Silayan, president of Alitaptap Storytellers, while the speaker for the READ Program for Trainors was Elena Cutiongco, former president of the Reading Association of the Philippines.

After the workshop, the participants saw the need to organize themselves and have temporarily named their group the “Iloilo Reading Club.” They decided to document activities in reading that they have already been doing in their schools (e.g. storytelling contests, awarding of the “Most Widely Read Pupil,” storytelling/reading tour, quiz bowl on authors, etc.) and to discuss them in their follow-up meetings.

Other universities that will hold Booklatan sa Bayan programs include KDCs in Saint Paul University in Tuguegarao, University of Southeastern Philippines in Davao, Ateneo de Naga, Silliman University in Dumaguete, and Notre Dame University in Cotabato.

Booklatan sa KDCs is also part of ongoing efforts to promote an interest in development topics among young people through the popularization of World Bank publications. The World Bank manga comics was used in the sessions as an example of reading material that attempts to deliver a message about development, using a medium that is familiar and popular among young people.

The World Bank Office of the Publisher (EXTOP) in Washington supports this initiative by providing posters, advance copies and subsidized rates of the World Bank manga comics. “The engagement with EXTOP is based on the common objective of stirring interest in development, and using printed and online materials as one vehicle for achieving that objective,” explained Moira Enerva, World Bank’s Public Information Associate.

This article is based on materials published by the World Bank Philippines in www.worldbank.org.ph.

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