Friday, July 24, 2009

The 2008 of the Philippine Board on Books for Young People (PBBY)

Here is a copy of the PBBY Chairman's report. Posted with permission from Totet De Jesus.

The past year was characterized by ongoing activities by the different sectors and newer initiatives aimed at making children more interested in reading and making books a little more accessible and within reach.

2008 was a special year for PBBY with 25th Anniversary. Events, exhibitions, competitions, workshops, and writers' talks were the highlights of this celebration.

Storytelling - Salaysayan 2008
The Board strongly recognizes the vital role that storytelling plays in promoting the love for reading. With the Alitaptap Storytellers Group, the Board organized storytelling competitions for both amateur and professional storytellers. Last year, the Eliminations and Grand Finals of Salaysayan 2008 were held during the Manila International Book Fair at the SMX Convention Center last September. Storytelling has really been getting much attention lately with various institutions engaging in storytelling activities as part of their corporate social responsibility projects. Our National Finals was generously supported by the National Book Development Board, a government agency whose present officers have been very active in finding meaningful and productive ways to promote and support reading advocacies.

25 Author Visits
Throughout the Board's 25th Anniversary, 25 schools were visited by their favorite children's book authors. The visits were a joint project between PBBY and the members of Kuwentista ng mga Tsikiting (Kuting), the organization of writers for children. The students had the opportunity to meet the writers, listen as they storytell and hear the stories behind their stories. Meeting the creator of a storybook was quite an experience for children and it gave an added thrill to the idea of reading.

25 Best-Loved Philippine Children's Book Characters
After surveying hundreds of Filipino children, an exhibition of rubber foam sculptures of the 25 Best-Loved Children's Book Characters was staged at the Cultural Center of the Philippines during last year's celebration of National Children's Book Day. After almost one month of being viewed at the CCP, the exhibit was moved to the National Library, The Manila International Bookfair, and the University of the Philippines in Diliman. The sculptures were created by members of Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan (Ang INK), the organization of illustrators for children.

There was very positive response to this exhibit from children, families, organizations and institutions. The exhibition turned out to be a good promotional tool for children's books. Aside from the endless picture taking beside the life-(or larger-than-life) size characters, the interest in the books was heightened because it is the first-ever attempt to have these characters in 3D form and have the actual book beside these characters for the viewers to read. For children who have read the books and recognize the characters, seeing (and touching) them was a memorable experience. For those who haven't read the books, seeing the characters and the books on display actually led the parents to check out the books during the Bookfair. I received information that some parents looked for all the titles of the 25 books at the Manila International Book Fair but were disappointed when they found out that some of them were not available anymore.

This year, we approached the City of Marikina and asked them if they are willing to celebrate National Children’s Book day with us. Since literacy is one of the thrusts of Marikina, we were welcomed for this year’s celebration. We are also happy because Marikina is preparing a permanent venue for the 25 Best-Loved Children’s Book Characters where children can view them.

Workshops at the Manila International Book Fair
The PBBY offered workshops at the SMX Convention Center during the Manila International Book Fair. Among the workshops given were:

A Thumbnail History of Children's Literature in the Philippines by Dr. Lina Diaz de Rivera, 25 Ways to Entice Children with Stories by Manolo Silayan, Creating Effective Visuals for Children's Books by Ruben de Jesus, and Reading, Responding and Reviewing by Neni Sta. Romana Cruz. One thing we learned from these workshops is that aside from making the workshops really interesting and substantial, a big effort should be placed in marketing these events to ensure more participation among those groups who will benefit from these activities.

Museo Pambata
Museo Pambata, one of the institutional members of the Board, has continuous programs such as the Mobile Library and the Book Feature where a writer and illustrator is featured every month and are attended by children from welfare centers, nearby communities and museum visitors. A new Career Option or Paglaki Ko Theme Room on the Writer and Illustrator of Children’s Books will open on December 2009. Just recently, South African storyteller Gcina Mhlophe Becker gave a storytelling workshop hosted by the Embassy of South Africa and Museo Pambata.

Booksellers Sector
It is heartening to note the opening of more bookstores within the Metro Manila area. Book fairs during Linggo ng Wika, school fairs, United Nations Week and other occasions continue to bring reading materials closer to children. It has been observed that less young people go to the bookstores and so these book fairs play their role in making these books available in the school environment. Co-branding promotions in bookstores have been started by publishers as premium for books. Reading of quotable quotes from famous people, or excerpts from books will be heard over the in-store radio systems of the leading bookstore chain. Students now get an automatic !0% discount on their textbooks upon presentation of their school ID.

Storywriters Sector
Several writers have been invited to deliver papers and conduct workshops for local and international groups and institutions. Theater adaptations of children’s stories have been staged by schools, community theater groups, Ballet Manila and the Cultural Center of the Philippines during its Virgin Labfest.

Wan Dey Isang Araw
PBBY’s radio program won the Special Citation for the Best Entertainment Radio Program at the 2008 Catholic Mass Media Awards. Last year, the program won the award for the same category. Wan Dey Isang Araw is a joint production with the Cultural Center of the Philippines and DZAS. Wan Dey Isang Araw was also a finalist in the Best Children’s Radio Program in the 2008 Golden Dove Awards given by the KBP.

Book Reviewers Sector
The most significant development is the space given the PBBY and the Sa Aklat Sisikat Foundation as a regular contributor in the Saturday Commentary column of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. There remains only occasional interest in book reviews in the lifestyle pages - much to be desired in this area. We see the efforts of the Manila Bulletin’s children supplement editor in having children write book reviews.

Reading Programs
The Sa Aklat Sisikat Foundation has begun the implementation of reading programs from Luzon to Mindanao with the sponsorship of corporate foundations. The effectiveness of these programs are being studied by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Poverty Action Lab.

For the coming years, the Philippine Board on Books for Young People plans to revitalize the annual PBBY Salanga Prize and the PBBY Alcala Prize. Next year‘s Salanga prize will be awarded for the first time to a collection of poetry for children. More schools will be approached and encouraged to participate in the illustrators competition. Hopefully, more local and international linkages can be tapped to support continuing literacy advocacies. Storytelling will still be vigorously promoted as an important tool to encourage the love for reading and a return to our oral tradition. More creative promotions will be studied to encourage more involvement in reading activities. We also hope to strengthen the research component with the involvement of our new sectoral representative for research. We also would like to invite everyone to Buklat Bulilit, a children’s book festival at the Trinoma from July 25 to August 1 co-organized by PBBY.

Let me just end my report by sharing the sentiments of the board on taxing of imported books which violates the Florence Agreement, an international treaty the Philippines signed in 1952, and the Republic Act 8047 or the Book Publishing Industry Development Act.

Books open minds to creativity, critical thinking and possibilities of what one can be. To add a tax to this valuable medium of learning is like killing ideas and a brighter future of our people. Children specially should have access to libraries and books. We just need to look at other countries in Asia that have good public libraries and see how progressive they are. Reading books from all over the world is our own writers’ lifeline. The only way for our young to take part in or benefit from the very important emergence of global ideas is through books.

This, coming from writers, illustrators, educators, storytellers, librarians, publishers, booksellers, book reviewers, media practitioners, reading advocates and our respected institutional members.

Readers make good leaders. To have a nation of good leaders, a continuous access to enriching reading materials must be available for each and every child.

Thank you.

Ruben "Totet" De Jesus
PBBY Chairman 2006-2008

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