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Doing poorly in Filipino? This Library can help

With books starting to lose ground against the Internet, e-books and other new media, a group of book lovers has built a library to spread the love for reading.

That library is not just a place for reading today but also a learning center that teaches students from preschool to high school to love the Filipino language, literature and culture.

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Vanessa Bicomong says The Learning Library (TLL), when it first opened in Loyola Heights, Quezon City, was the realization of a “dream to have a library of our own where we can store books and make them widely available.”

But Bicomong, TLL general manager, says they later saw a need to teach reading and writing in Filipino.

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The Wika’y Galing program was developed after a mother asked if the TLL group could offer a program that would help her children improve their grades in Filipino. Bicomong says most students enrolled in the program because of low grades in Filipino or Araling Panlipunan that kept them from being included in their schools’ honors lists.

Like strangers

Many of the students really did not know Filipino, Bicomong says. She recalls a 13-year-old who did not even know what medyas (socks) meant when asked during assessment.

Raissa Cortez-Calunsag, TLL head teacher, found out that common words like tumalon (jump) and pumalakpak (clap) were also unfamiliar to students. When the reading coach said, “Ang sabi ni Mang Simon pumalakpak (Simon says clap),” the students jumped, turned or lay on the floor. Nannies laughed as the kids struggled to execute the commands in the Filipino version of the game “Simon Says.”

Calunsag says it is a sad reality that today’s Filipino youth, particularly those in the upper class, do not know the Filipino language. (It’s not only sad, it’s a shame!-Ed.)

She adds that students find it difficult to communicate in Filipino due to lack of practice. At home and in school, the children use English. Even the yaya talk to the kids in English.

“So here we teach Filipino as a second language,” says Bicomong. TLL uses “experience- and culture-based instruction to develop Filipino appreciation and encourage self-learning.”

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Activities like cooking help in vocabulary building, encourage participation and “make the language real for them,” says Calunsag. When they discuss a story about cooking, the students cook sinigang. The multisensorial approach allows children to experience the words used in the story. Students learn the word mainit (hot) by touching the pot.

High school student DJ Lanuza says, “The Learning Library helped me understand Filipino stories better. Before I went to the library, I wasn’t good in Filipino. I couldn’t understand stories that much. When my parents enrolled me at the Library, I thought it would be a waste of my time. But then I started getting high grades in Filipino because of the story quizzes and long tests.”

Calunsag hopes that, by learning about Philippine culture and literature, the children would feel “a sense of belonging and pride in being Filipino.”

“Filipino is a beautiful language and the country is blessed with great writers,” Calunsag adds.

Book-centered

In line with their advocacy to promote love for reading, TLL activities are always linked with books. “We always start and end with a book,” says Calunsag.

At the start of every session, children are asked what they want to read and what they know about their chosen topic. They can bring home three books and go over them on their own. In the next session, they are asked about three facts they have learned.

For fiction, they are asked to suggest an alternative ending or write essays about the story. TLL also offers creative and formal writing workshops in English and Filipino.

TLL uses the Lexile measure, a system that matches a student’s ability with the difficulty of the reading material. Its reading coaches are education or literature graduates who share a love for reading. Bicomong says one cannot teach children to love reading if one is not passionate about it.

“We call our teachers reading coaches because a coach does not only teach you but also motivates and gives you strategies,” Bicomong says.

Reading coaches are assigned to no more than three students. The small group allows them to determine each student’s needs and monitor his/her learning progress, says Bicomong.

The faculty has established a personal relationship with the children and parents. They know what each child likes to read. So it is not unusual for Bicomong to say she is going to buy the “Titan’s Curse,” the third installment of the Percy Jackson series, because a student is about to finish the second book. At TLL, students can choose from over 4,000 books that range from children’s books like the Adarna and Scholastic’s publications to bestsellers.

TLL is more of an advocacy than an enterprise, says Bicomong. “Most people have taken for granted the importance of reading for pleasure…We want to develop in children a life-long love for reading.”

The Learning Library has 11 branches scattered in the cities of Quezon, San Juan, Pasig, Taguig, Muntinlupa and Makati. For exact locations and more information, call 4333135 or 0917-8192266 or e-mail inquiry@learninglibraries.com. Visit http://learninglibraries.com/
libraries.html.

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TAGS: Education, Filipino language, library, Philippines, The Learning Library, Vanessa Bicomong
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