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Read to lead

NEW BEGINNINGS () - November 7, 2010 - 12:00am

If we can build a nation of readers, then continued progress concomitantly becomes the order of the day in our country. Elementary knowledge teaches us that to read is to lead. There’s no substitute to that.

In a country, however, where the public education system is overburdened — problems range from lack of teachers to lack of classrooms to shortage of books — it is always, always a welcome respite to see individuals and organizations taking the lead to ease the problem.

Take for example the recent reading activity forged between Citibank and Sa Aklat Sisikat Foundation at the F. Benitez Elementary School on Kakarong Street in Sta. Cruz, Makati. Dubbed as the Global Community Day-Reading Program, the early morning reading activity at the quadrangle of the school saw TV personality “Kuya Bodjie” animatedly reading the story of Pilandok to a lively audience of 400 Grade 4 students from F. Benitez Elementary School and J. Magsaysay Elementary School. Judging from the endless smiles on the faces of the kids as they answered the questions of Kuya Bodjie as he read the story, the reading program was a success.

“This morning’s activity is just one of the many we are having as part of our Global Community Day program this year. Global Community Day is a great tradition in Citi.  It started five years ago, where Citibankers around the world take time to participate in various community programs,” said Sanjiv Vohra, Citibank country manager.

That day, there were 444 selfless Citibankers at F. Benitez Elementary School who were eagerly looking forward to sharing with the 400 students their love for reading.  After the reading activity at the school quadrangle, the students were led to the classrooms for more activities. It became a fun-filled day as the Citibankers volunteered to teach the children through reading and games the values of listening, cooperation, teamwork, trust and leadership. Adarna books were distributed to students at the end of the day.

Kuya Bodjie reads the story of Pilandok to the students of F. Benitez and J. Magsaysay Elementary Schools.

“I love the work. It’s so much fun,” said Lizzie Zobel of the reading program. Lizzie is the co-founder of Sa Aklat Sisikat Foundation with Margarita Delgado. “The program makes us hopeful. It makes us believe in the future of the children, in the future of this nation.”

Sa Aklat Sisikat Foundation is a non-profit organization founded in 2001 to promote the love for reading among Filipino children. The organization aims to create a nation of readers, one school at a time. According to Christine Araneta-Ferreira, the foundation’s executive director, Sa Aklat Sisikat works with public schools around the Philippines to provide the resources for implementing a reading program designed for Grade 4 students. The foundation chose Grade 4 pupils because students who have reached that grade level are at risk of dropping from school before high school.

“Studies conducted by the Department of Education showed that students who have reached the fourth grade have made the shift from learning to read to reading to learn. At this level, they no longer have difficulty decoding words and sentences, and can now comprehend, interpret and appreciate the written word. We aim to develop lifelong readers by capturing every child’s interest and imagination at this age, helping them discover the great rewards and the sheer pleasure of reading,” Christine said.

Lizzie added she believes that a nation with literate population is already a successful nation. “But we just don’t teach them how to read. What we have in the foundation is functional literacy. We also teach the children around the country how to comprehend. Comprehension is very important because it teaches the children to be critical and analytical, tools they will use when they face the future.”

It is the hope of Lizzie and her group in Sa Aklat Sisikat that the children become lifelong learners. To assure this, they also work closely with the teachers and principals of schools to influence the students to become better readers and better learners.

“We are really delighted that we partnered with Sa Aklat Sisikat. We are happy that we are able to contribute positive impact on the lives of the Filipino schoolchildren. It gives us a feeling of fulfillment,” Sanjiv said.

Indeed, reading is as important as breathing. Knowledge is the air that oxidizes our capacity to dream. We need to build a nation of readers if we want to build better this country.

 Read to lead. There’s no substitute to that.

(For more information on Sa Aklat Sisikat Foundation,

please call 738-7227.)

(For your new beginnings, please e-mail me at bumbaki@yahoo.com or my.new.beginnings@gmail.com. You may want to follow me on Twitter@bum_tenorio. Have a blessed Sunday!)

AKLAT BENITEZ ELEMENTARY SCHOOL CITIBANKERS GLOBAL COMMUNITY DAY READING SA AKLAT SISIKAT SA AKLAT SISIKAT FOUNDATION SCHOOL STUDENTS
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