Monday, December 28, 2009

WE DON'T NEED ANOTHER READING CURRICULUM

For the second time in two years, Veritas Parochial School hosted The Gathering 2, an overnight celebration of discussing books, meeting fellow book lovers, and listening to music. The school's book clubs have decided to do this every first Friday night of December. Last year it was all about Twilight. This year, it was all about 10+ books--a veritable explosion of pages! Students discussed George Orwell's Animal Farm and 1984, and Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games,among others, to listeners in their PJs, lounging on sleeping bags.

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From Blogger Pictures

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Podcasts of Libba Bray's A Great and Terrible Beauty and Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book were broadcast. Top discussants won prizes and enthusiastic applause.

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Unbeknownst to the sleeping book lovers, I spent the night/early morning poring over reader's journals submitted to me by senior high schoolers who opted out of the book talk. The journals were a revelation, for like most journals, they chronicle the reading process meticulously, but unlike most journals, they were bursting in color, favorite passages, even a movie stills collage. Creativity to the fullest!

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From Blogger Pictures

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From Blogger Pictures

All this leads me to wonder why the Department of Education can't see what's right in front of them: young people thumbing across the pages of books, discussing plot and character, making book trailers, making scrapbooks--generally enjoying the reading process. If you were a parent perusing the pages of the English curriculum, with all the macro-skills blah and the Understanding By Design-BS, you'd be afraid for your child. Could he really master all 95 reading subskills? Will not spotting the main idea outright jeopardize his job-acceptance chances? Will his teacher penalize him for not buying 3 textbooks and 3 workbooks in Language, Reading and Speech, respectively?

In my 17 years as English teacher, I can now safely assure all worried parents that the Philippine English curriculum does not decide the fate of their children. Former DepEd Undersecretary Juan Miguel Luz, speaking to Diocese of Paranaque educators in June 2009, cites an international study claiming that a literacy-rich home environment is actually the BEST INDICATOR of student success:

100 books in the house
1 computer in the house
the child's own study desk in the house

(Source: TIMSS 1998, 2003)

And by student success, we don't just look at reading, but maths and sciences as well.

In Finland, a nation that consistently tops international examinations, the teachers are not boxed in by a national curriculum; they design their lessons with their students and make adjustments when necessary. Teachers and students practice equity in the learning process.

Bottomline: invest in books, a working personal computer, internet access, a study desk, and TIME with children as they read and ask questions.

As for me and the Veritas community, we just simply enjoy books, and make them available to all. We have future projects that will put 3 brand new non-academic books in every high schooler's hands for him to keep.

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I don't need an international study to tell me the overflowing benefits of reading for my students.

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I just listen to their book talks and browse their journals, and I'm happy.

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