‘Unang Aklat’ teaches moms to read and read to their kids | Inquirer News

‘Unang Aklat’ teaches moms to read and read to their kids

ADARNA AT 35  (From left) Sta. Romana Cruz, Espino, Adarna House marketing director Asa Montenejo, Almario, Adarna Group Foundation executive director Ruth Martin and Esperanza Santos of Samal Rural Health Unit

ADARNA AT 35 (From left) Sta. Romana Cruz, Espino, Adarna House marketing director Asa Montenejo, Almario, Adarna Group Foundation executive director Ruth Martin and Esperanza Santos of Samal Rural Health Unit

A government doctor and her staff decided to help mothers in Samal, Bataan province, improve their lives through literacy.

“We wanted to know if there would be an improvement in the lives of the women if we educated them, and if we gave their children access to books as early as under 3 years old,” said Dr. Christina Espino, the lone doctor in the fourth-class municipality.


Espino usually sees women patients in her public birthing clinic only when they are ready to deliver their babies. The women do not undergo prenatal checkups.

“They arrive in our clinic on the day they give birth. They literally bring only themselves. Nothing else, not even money,” she said.


As luck would have it, on the day Espino was asking herself how she could further help mothers, Samal Mayor Generosa de la Fuente called.

The mayor introduced Espino to Adarna Publishing House president Lyn Almario, who wanted to partner with the local Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in implementing the “Unang Aklat” program in Samal.

The publishing house forged a partnership with local officials for the implementation of the early literacy program for children 0-3 years old.

The campaign turned out to be just what Espino needed.

Adarna started sending teachers every month to teach mothers not only how to read but also how to read to their kids and how to stimulate the minds of their children.

The publishing house also regularly donates books to children appropriate to their ages.

Espino and her staff of 46 nurses and health workers grouped the children into 0-3 months,


4-6 months and 7 months to

1 year old, the oldest beneficiaries.

“You could see how thirsty these children were for good, colorful books. You would see a young child pointing at something in the book to his older sibling,” she said. “One of the things we want to do is allow them to stay longer to read the books. Sometimes, they only stayed until the mother finished her checkup.”

Espino said they wanted to start with a reading room and create a program patterned after the Inquirer’s Read-Along.

As the mothers learned how to read to their children, they also improved their reading skills and expanded their own knowledge.

“I told Lyn that if we could only save one mother from ignorance, I would be happy,” Espino said. She realized it would take a few years before they would find out if they were successful, but the doctor and her staff are determined to pursue the project.

Unang Aklat is only one of the many programs Adarna has supported since it was established 35 years ago.

The publishing house also partnered with Ronald McDonald House of Charities for Bright Minds Read, Save the Children for the publication of books written in local languages, Plan International, Intervida, International Container Terminal Services Foundation and DSWD National Capital Region (NCR) that provides temporary care to 0-6-year-old children.

On the occasion of its 35th anniversary, Adarna hosted recently a thanksgiving lunch for its partners at Victorino’s Restaurant in Quezon City.

Each partner received 35 books catering to different age groups. Some of the titles in the set were National Children’s Book awardee “Araw sa Palengke,” “Hating Kapatid,” “Little Girl in a Box,” “Just Add Dirt” and “Ngumiti si Andoy.”

“We wanted an event … with our partners who have really helped us develop our advocacy (in literacy) … . They have shown and inspired us with the way they use our products and services in literacy,” Almario said.

She said literacy was often hindered by lack of access and the high cost of books.

Adarna, she said, was an NCR-centric company, but its partners allowed it to go beyond and reach out to more readers.

National Book Development Board Chair Neni Sta. Romana Cruz, one of the guests, advised the partners to allow the children to use the books and not to keep them on the shelves.

After all, no book left on a shelf can help improve lives.

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TAGS: ‘unang aklat’, adarna publishing house, dr. Christina Espino, Learning, Literacy
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