Book reading is alive and well at Tahanan
LIVE FEED - Bibsy M. Carballo (The Philippine Star) - October 9, 2013 - 12:00am

Do people still have the time and interest to read books these days of the tablet, Kindle and story books transposed into teleseryes? These were the fears we had en route with friend Winnie Ferrer to the Manila International Book Fair at the SMX beside the Mall of Asia.

Our initial worry concerned possible loss of patronage for the longest running book fair in Asia. However, upon meeting a full house at the gigantic exhibition hall, our fears were quickly doused. One stall was especially crowded and we went to find out what all the excitement was about. Apparently, a sale was going on at the Tahanan Books for Young Readers. We met Reni Roxas, publisher and book distributor who is based abroad, and her managing editor Frances Ong. We joined the long line to pick our early Christmas gifts for children. There were various types of stationery that made fun of Filipino English. We selected a few books, and were attracted to Ay Naku! and Ma Me Mi Mu Mu! and started reading on the way home. Winnie, a teacher at St. Scholastica, had this to say of the books:

“Ay Naku! is a common Filipino expression that conveys surprise, dismay, disappointment or exasperation. Through colorful illustrations, the book demonstrates how and when the expression Ay naku! is used. An English translation is found towards the end of the book. I would recommend this book for children ages five to seven.”

“Filipino folklore is dealt with in Ma Me Mi Mu Mu! The author and illustrator Jomike Tejido urges child readers to make friends with various kinds of Filipino monsters like the Mamaw, MuMu, Halimaw, Tikbalang, Tiktik, Kapre, Manananggal, Siyokoy, Multo, Aswang, Bungisngis, Nuno sa Punso. This book for the elementary level would allay children’s fears of Filipino supernatural creatures.”

Co-founded by Reni with Marc Singer in 1991, Tahanan Books for Young Readers has since come out with almost a hundred titles covering Philippine folk tales, science, language and pop culture. Tahanan is an eight-time winner of the National Book Award for Children’s Literature. Tagu-taguan won the National Children’s Book Awards in 2010, and Ay Naku! authored by Tahanan’s Reni won the award in 2012. Carla Pacis, award-winning children’s book author and professor of children’s literature, praised Ay Naku! saying, “Only 65 words, yet this little story is packed with action for the youngest of toddlers.”

According to Frances, times are currently exciting in the book industry. Instead of losing steam with the entry of the new media, they are apparently helping one another. This year, Tahanan has broken the company record of two to three new releases, by releasing four new books. “The material is also more experimental and more artistic,” comments Frances. 

Since it debuted with six Great Lives biographies of Filipino heroes at the Manila International Book Fair in 1992, Tahanan Books continues into its second decade by addressing youngsters and turning them into dedicated readers. Yes, there will be television and the Internet, but there will also be the Lola Basyang books that remain truthful to the language of Severino Reyes. As there will be the delightful Gilda Cordero Fernando English translation. And there will be the Tahanan Facebook which is thriving. There is room for everyone as Reni and Frances have discovered.

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