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Valenzuela students welcome reading camps

MANILA, Philippines—While most kids their age are making the most of what’s left of their summer vacation, incoming Grade 6 students Kristine Joy Agpalo and Justine Encarnacion spend five days a week reporting to the Dalandanan Elementary School in Valenzuela City for reading classes.

The two are among 18,376 pupils—around eight out of 10 students—enrolled in public schools throughout the city who were found to have trouble reading or could not read at all.

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“Before, I found it really hard to pronounce some words in English and that slowed me down,” said Kristine. “It made me ashamed of my reading, especially during the start of the school year because my classmates were good readers.”

Since the start of the month, both girls have been spending nearly four hours a day listening to stories, practicing their pronunciation of words and participating in activities to improve their reading skills.

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“We don’t really mind the summer classes,” said Justine. “It’s actually quite fun. We get to do many activities—even singing—and we also have free snacks. And we also learn a lot from our lessons, too.”

The remedial classes dubbed “Summer Reading Camps” was organized by the Valenzuela City government to sharpen students’ reading skills and help them better understand their lessons with the end goal of improving their performance in benchmark exams such as the National Achievement Test (NAT).

“The Summer Reading Camp is part of our 360-degree education investment program where we invest in curriculum development, infrastructure, student welfare, teacher development and parent involvement in education,” Mayor Rexlon Gatchalian told reporters as he visited the students of the reading classes being conducted in the city’s public elementary schools.

“The camp specifically focuses on curriculum buildup by strengthening the foundation of students in intense reading and literacy while also imparting new teaching methods to help our teachers attract and maintain the students’ attention,” he added.

Gatchalian, who outlined the program in his first State of Education in Valenzuela Address in February, said it was prompted by the city’s dismal performance in the NAT in previous years. The city’s average dropped from a high of 71.93 percent in 2010 to 59.13 in 2011. It rebounded slightly to 60 percent in 2012.

Dismal reading test results

Gatchalian added that when he looked at the results of the Philippine Informal Reading Inventory exams administered to Grade 6 pupils nationwide to gauge their reading and understanding skills, he found out that eight out of 10 or about 83 percent of Valenzuela’s students were “frustrated readers” or those who have difficulty reading.

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Another 11 percent were total “nonreaders” who could not recognize and differentiate among letter sounds. Only five percent of those who took the exams were deemed “instructional readers,” or those who could understand what they read but only under guidance. Only one percent were in the highest reading level, or so-called independent readers.

The Summer Reading Camp aims to change the situation in the city, Gatchalian said. He described it as an intervention program in which identified frustrated readers and non-readers, initially incoming Grades 3 and 6 students, were required to take remedial classes.

“This concept comes from private schools. We copied it and improved on it by partnering with the Synergia Foundation, which gave us modules and other materials to use in the lessons. They also trained our teachers in new approaches to teaching so they could maintain the attention of the students,” he said.

Gatchalian noted that this was the first time in the country that this type of intervention was being done on a citywide basis. In the coming school year, pupils identified as frustrated readers and non-readers in Grades 2, 4 and 5 would be put through the reading camp to be held on Saturdays.

In Malinta Elementary School, one of the largest in the city, principal Fe Padriano supervises 1,080 pupils divided into 34 reading classes which all seem to be going well, she said.

“We really prepared for and got behind the program. I even formed a “sundo brigade” among the teachers who would fetch the students from their houses to take them to school. Because of that, we have almost perfect attendance every day,” she said.

And while the summer classes may seem to be an inconvenience for both parents and pupils, Padriano said she has yet to receive complaints.

Halfway through the program, Dalandanan Elementary School principal Mari Jayne Mendardo said that they were beginning to see results based on reading exams given roughly midway through the one-month class.

“Based on the oral reading test we administered to the students two weeks ago, we’ve seen an improvement. In the test we gave before they started, about 50 percent could not properly read the test. After the exams last week, only less than three percent failed to properly read the test,” she said.

More exams will be given to the students this week and at the end of the camp on May 30, Mendardo added.

Kristine and Justine have still over a week to go before the end of summer camp. Surprisingly, they don’t regret spending the whole month of May in school.

“At least when we get back to school, we’ll be better readers,” Kristine said.

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TAGS: Dalandanan Elementary School, Education, Philippine - metro, Reading, reading camps, Rexlon Gatchalian, valenzuela
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