Friday, September 30, 2016

Book Project Preview: Start Right Reading Series for Grade 1 Learners

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Teacher Reviews the Start Right Reading Series for Kindergarten Learners

Mary Rose Lagunsad has this to say about the STart Right Reading Series (STARS) Kindergarten Learners (Lampara Books, 2014):
Having bought a copy of the STart Right Reading Series several months after seeing the set on display and meeting its author & illustrator at the Philippine International Literary Festival (August 2015) brought so much joy to me. The long wait was worth it. I started using the series in February of this year with my former Kinder pupils who are now in Grade 1. 
The stories are very simple yet so rich in experiences and situations on which the children could very well relate to. But I had to translate them in Tagalog as I'm handling Public School Kindergarten children. 
Yet, later in the school year, when some pupils have already mastered a few Basic Sight Words, I expounded on how they were used after the pupils recognized them on the pages. They also loved the illustrations and insisted on showing these up close to each one of them as the books were quite small to present in a big class.
The Parent and Teacher Guide which comes with the Learning Package is a very useful reference to help develop, reinforce and enrich their basic skills from fine motor, hand-eye coordination, readiness in counting, writing, reading and language.
A portion for Beginning Reading in Filipino and Basic Sight Words Activities for each story is highly recommended to engage the children more in reading; help them gain mastery of their first language.
Hats off to the author, Zarah Gagatiga and to the illustrator, Bernadette Solina-Wolf.
Mary Rose is one of the NCR Coordinators of Pinoy Reading Buddies (PRB). They have upcoming workshops in Palawan, Iloilo, Bukidnon, Cavite, Batangas & Kalookan City. They encourage teachers, schools and communities to be partners in building a nation of engaged Filipino readers. They are also invited to attend these workshops for them to adopt a reading program. PRB friends donors abroad help send boxes of books to these schools.
Mary Rose is the Kindergarten Dept. Chairman of Bitik Elementary School in Valenzuela City South District.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Common Mistakes of Newbie Children's Book Authors

Mr. Alvin Gale Tan, a participant in the recently concluded 4th Lampara Books Likha-Pambata Writing and Illustrating Workshop sent me a question through Messenger. The workshop was conducted during the 37th MIBF. Most often, the time spent for question and answer is not enough. With email and social media, conversations and further comments or feedback can be entertained. Thus, the learning continues.

And so, he asked:

What are the 3 most common mistakes of newbie children's book authors?

My answer:

Children's Literature is the literature of hope. Remember what children and childhood stand for when you write stories for children. The ending is not always a happily ever after, but children's stories always give the reader a sense of a good feeling despite suffering; an acceptance of truths and values we hold dear in a world in chaos; that light can shine in the midst of darkness.

It will help the aspiring writers of children's books to look at the 10 Values of Children's Literature by Ruth Kearney Carlson (1969). The link is from the ERIC database where the PDF can be downloaded for free. As an addition, here are my recommended books to read for the newbie writer of children's stories.

There are many more good books to read and learn from. Search the blog for past reviews and the list of winners in the National Children's Book Awards. 

Mistakes can't be helped, especially when we are starting off with projects or a new endeavor. Failures are part of the learning process. If we take on a positive attitude and an open mind, we will arrive at the desired destination.  

Friday, September 23, 2016

Library Scavenger Hunt 2016

It is already a tradition in The Beacon Academy for grade nine students to play the Scavenger Hunt. I started this out with our Comparative Religions (CRe) teacher three years ago. She saw the need to introduce students to serious research in a fun and engaging manner. When she broached the idea to me, I said YES! This is a teacher-librarian collaboration opportunity. I learn from her. She learns from me. Our students learn too. We all learn together.

So, this year, a month and half after the academic year opened, CRe teacher and I scheduled the Scavenger Hunt. My staff helped prepare the handouts, the puzzles and the technology needed for the activity. In previous years, the main objective of the game was to finish the hunt and the puzzle. This year, I emphasized the importance of finishing a product as well as going through a process. These two ideas, product and process, are valuable in academic research and scholarly endeavors. Hmm... thinking about it, these are valuable life lessons.

Completing a product or a task is one thing. Knowing how it was completed and accomplished is another. The former is concerned with competence. The later is about smarts. Both require stamina, perseverance and drive. All these learning skills happen in the classroom and outside its four walls. The library, with programs and services such as this, becomes an extension of the classroom. Bless the CRe teacher who recognizes this role of the library.

 How did the students take on the Scavenger Hunt? They had fun. They used their skills. They panicked. They finished the task and they felt good about themselves.

We wrapped up the game by asking them things they learned and discovered about research, the library and the challenges of working in a group. I felt confident too, teaching along side our CRe teacher. It unburdens me in so many ways. Now how do we assess the students' learning? The skills covered in the Scavenger Hunt appear in their tasks and project in their CRe lessons. I await feedback from my teaching partner, the CRe teacher.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Young Adult Library Services: College Talks at the Library

College talks kicked off a few weeks ago in campus.

Our college guidance counselor's favorite venue for college talks is the library. I take this opportunity to collaborate with her by displaying books about college readiness and writing college essays and letters of applications. It helps that our college counselor loves books and reads a lot too! She does not only see the library as a physical space to be used for events.

This simple plan to encourage students to read was hatched a year ago. We both saw the relevance of reading books and how this can greatly help in writing essays. The other aspect of writing like outlining, organization, use of language is being handled by the Language Arts teachers. So, we support each other so that our students are not lost out to sea. This is how we do things in the Beacon Academy.

By putting on display books that matter to our high school students, the library's role as a reosurce center is up on the plate. This way, students can see and preview books to support them on the task of choosing colleges and applying for one. More so, writing that essay! I also whipped up a list of recommended books on the said topic. Apparently, two books were picked out from the display shelf! It works!

Recommended list of books on College Application and Essay Writing

A follow through on this library service would be to lead students and the guidance counselor to World Book Online's Life Skills web portal where young adults can access information on personal financial management, looking for a dorm or boarding house, planning for life after high school, preparing for interviews and considering a gap year. Again, timing is of the essence because using resources need to be strategically planned.


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Benefits of Book Signing and Meet & Greet the Author Events

With Toni and Zak at the 37th MIBF
I do not have a new book this year. Life happened.

But, my publisher, Lampara Books allotted a time for me to sign books at their booth during the 37th Manila International Book Fair in SMX Convention Center. I like book signings because, I meet my readers. I meet old friends and make new ones.

Last Saturday, I met Jenn Avetria who teaches in Sariaya National High School. We are friends on Facebook. One day, she sent me a private message asking about setting up a small reading center and library. I sent her links to blog articles I have written about her query. Imagine my joy when we met in person at the 37th MIBF! Jenn also attended the Likha-Pambata Writing and Illustrating Workshop. While she admits losing Php 500.00, she gained so much from the experience.

Another surprise that made me giddy as a child was meeting Zak Yuson up close and personal. Zak is the editor of Rappler's Move.PH. He bought a copy of Big Sister for his niece. I couldn't help but drop his mom's name in our conversation. His mom is one of the nicest people I know. But, more than that, I also got the chance to congratulate him on the success of Move.PH as a participatory platform for citizens to engage in news about current events, social development, government and society. From our brief meeting, I learned about X Rappler.

This is Rappler's new online platform for netizens to write stories. I still have to find out what it is and what it actually does that benefits people and their communities. But, on face value, I think X Rappler is an avenue for storytelling.

And of course, while signing books, I get a good gauge on how I can help my publisher market my books. More on marketing matters for writers in future post!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Rainbows and Paper Bags: Take Aways from the Likha-Pambata Workshop 2016

Our tarp at the workshop venue
Three wonderful things happened during the 4th Likha-Pambata Writing and Illustrating Workshop: 1) there were participants who were able to write a story map/outline; 2) there were participants who developed characters by drawing on paper bags; 3) there were participants who were able to do both by using the character from their story outline. Needless to say, the workshop that I ran with Ruben "Totet" de Jesus had been fun and deeply engaging. I felt inspired myself. I now resolve to finish all book projects I have with my publisher.

YAY! (fingers crossed)

How we went about the activities

The workshop program was in two parts. Being the author who facilitated the writing component of the workshop, I had an input session on my writing life, my writing process and where I get stories to write. Afterwards, participants were given story prompts to come up with story maps and outlines. I used the photo of a rainbow to establish context and focused on questions that lead to character development. In fifteen minutes, participants were able to write! This is only a pre-writing exercise but the output for the day is something they can file in a writing portfolio. This way, ideas and story development techniques are documented and can be tracked down.

Raquel V. Endoso's character is a fearful lion.
When Totet took on the second part of the workshop, the participants couldn't help but be amazed at the spot drawing demonstration. Basic shapes, lines and curves, geometric shapes and points can be used to create a character with emotions and personality. His input in our collaborative work was, I think, is the more interesting topic in the workshop.

Indeed, book development and publishing takes time. It is not easy and it can be messy too. But, if the heart is into this kind of creative endeavor, then, being a part of this industry is worth it. The returns are numerous and the gains are satisfying. Though, I can't claim that authors and artists like Totet and myself will be millionaires in the level of JK Rowling.

The Writer and the Illustrator Collaboration

During the Q&A, I was asked who is the illustrator I wish to collaborate with in the future. I wish to work with Robert Magnuson however, he seemed to be very, elusive.

This question made me think of the reasons I keep in choosing artists to work with. Since my stories are very personal, so is my choice for the book's illustrator. I admire the loving ways of Jomike Tejido towards his daughter. Having met his wife in a school visit, I sense this deep bond between them. He was my first choice for My Daddy, My One and Only. Thank God, Jomike said yes to the project considering how busy he was (and is)!

Raquel's fearful lion! Scaredy cat!
Bernadette Solina Wolf was also my first choice for A Tale of Two Dreams since she has a first hand experience of living in Mindoro. Besides, she knows a good number of Mangyans in the island. The Chocolate Kiss is one of my favorite restaurants. The restaurant is a business managed by Liza Flores' family. I have seen and met her sister there and her mother too. How closely knit she seems to be with her sister and mother. My gut feel told me she would do justice to Dear Nanay. When I saw her studies during the production stage of the book, my separation anxiety surfaced. It was exactly the emotion I want to visually appear in the book.

Totet is a friend and an ally in the advocacy for quality books and children's literature in the Philippines. He is funny, reflective, compassionate and responsible. I know he has sisters. For sure, a guy to be sensitive and perceptive, must have grown up among loving and "annoying" sisters. His work in Big Sister is splendid! In my mind, I hope to work further on with Totet in a workshop where participants can truly create books. It is going to be longer for sure, say two to three days? I don't even know if Totet will agree to the idea.

For now, I hope to keep in touch with the participants via social media. There is a writing and illustrating fellowship that is being talked about among the management team of Lampara Books. It would be my pleasure to be a mentor in this fellowship.

Caption this: ___________________________________
Thank you very much to Jun Matias of Lampara Books for the patience, his trust and confidence in me to push for the book projects that would matter to children and uplift writers and artists in the industry. All the best to Carlos Manalansan and Aiko Buduan-Salazar! May your hard work pay off a hundred fold. On to the next book project, my dears!

Awaken the Force: Library Services for Digital Natives

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Book Review: An Ember in the Ashes

An Ember in the Ashes (An Ember in the Ashes, #1)An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There is just something sexy about a guy who wants to live life in his own terms according to his principles and values. This is how I see Elias Veturius, the soldier hero of Sabaa Tahir's , thus, it was easy for me to root for him all throughout the book.

He is a guy against a system he doesn't want to be a part of and the fates has something else planned for him. He fights for his freedom and gets to runaway with the girl at the end of the book. No, it's not a happily ever after ending since his escape from the system is wrought with conflicts that range
from breaking the bonds of friendship, living with the guilt of killing his friends, and turning away from an illustrious and entitled life of a Gens/Mask. These will haunt him in book two and will definitely play a big role in his character development. For now, it is enough for me to say that I truly enjoyed Ember, the magic, the mayhem and yes, even the murders.

In this age of GoT and the Walking Dead, reading a book that has a viscous violence in it but stays centered to a hero, tormented and seeking redemption, is definitely worth several reads.

What else worked

The world building of Tahir is neither in the past nor in the future. The place is either middle Eastern or Mediterranean. Soldiers fight with spears, daggers and scrims but they wear boots and fatigues. The social strata is similar to imperial Rome, yet the existence of Augurs, mortal mages who know the patterns of time is suggestive of Greek myth. There are djinns and efrits, fey creatures and ghouls, the stories are told in the tradition of the Arabian nights all mixed, matched and meshed in a world that made me believe it does exist.

There are girls and women characters as strong as the men and the guys; villains that can put Lord Bolton to shame; and a splattering of supporting characters created to help the heroes and push the villains with their evil plans.

Ember has so many layers and pieces put together, it is a tastefully made novel crafted with so
much care. It doesn't look like a novel that was easy to write, but Tahir knew how to do it amazingly well.

What did not work

The romance is middle grade level. The characters are in their late adolescence, between 17-20 years old and yet, I feel like I am reading about an 8th grader falling in love for the first time. Eeew.

I hope this would improve in the second book since the love angle can be a stronger force to bind Elias to Laia thus, forming a tandem that is worth swooning over and cheering for as they battle the odds in the next journey. I look forward to Helene Aquilla's turn to shine. I want to know if my hunch on Keenan, the rebel Scholar is correct. Did Cook truly survive and why does she know so many secrets? Will Marcus turn out to be a super villain aided by the Nightbringer? And, I want to find out what the heck those Augurs were trying to tell Laia, Helene and Elias all along.

On to book two as there are riddles left to solve!

View all my reviews

Monday, September 12, 2016

AKLATAN 2016: Reading as Tool for Lifelong Learning

Here is a video of the PPT I made for AKLATAN 2016. Here, I talk about reading as cognition and how our thinking skills lead us to live fuller and purposeful lives.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Illustrator of the Month: Ruben "Totet" de Jesus (Part 2 of 2)

Totet has a funny bone: Totetious Pandakusorious
Did you like part 1 of the interview with Mr. Ruben "Totet" de Jesus? You can recall the interview by clicking the highlighted link. 

Here now is part 2 of the interview where Totet shared his approach in illustrating Big Sister. We will run a workshop on writing and illustrating children's stories during the Manila International Book Fair (MIBF) at SMX, MOA Pasay City. Abangan ang press release!

4. Ano ang feeling na mapili sa Kids' Choice Top Ten?

Masaya siyempreng mapasama sa sa Top Ten ng Kids’ Choice sa katatapos na National Children’s Book Awards. Sa totoo lang, malaki ang pakiramdam ko na mapapasama sa shortlist ang Big Sister dahil sa simpleng charm ng kuwentong ito, ang prosesong tinahak ko para mabuo ang mga ilustrations ko, at ang mga positibong feedback na natatanggap ko para dito.

Ang tema ay napakasimple pero madaling maka-relate ang mga bata (at ang mga hindi na masyadong bata) sa ugnayan ng mga karakter sa kuwento. Kung ikaw ang mas batang kapatid, alam mong hindi parating nakakatuwa ang iyong ate. Kung ikaw ang mas nakatatanda, minsan masarap kulitin ang bata mong kapatid. Pero, kahit hindi perpekto ang ugnayan ng magkapatid, mangingibabaw pa rin ang pagmamahalan sa isa’t isa. Nagkakaroon pa rin ng pagkakataong makita ang kabutihan ng kalooban sa iyong kapatid.

Isang challenge para sa akin ang iguhit ang kuwentong ito. Paano ko gagawing mas interesante ang karakter ng ate kahit na sa umpisa ay parang hindi nakatutuwa ang asal niya sa kanyang mas batang kapatid? Ang naging solusyon ko ay gawing multi-faceted ang karakter ni ate. Marami siyang talento at kakayahan. Pinakita ko ang versatility ni ate. Nagba-ballet, nagka-karate, nagbe-bake, kumakanta, nagba-bike at mahilig magbasa.

Paano ko gagawing interesante ang paraan ng pagpapakita ng bata ng kanyang pagpapahalaga sa kanyang ate? Dito ko pinalabas ang kakayahan ng batang lumikha ng kakaiba at malikhaing paraan para ipakita ang kanyang pagmamahal sa kanyang ate.

5. Saan ka kumuha ng inspirasyon para maiguhit at mailarawan ang Big Sister?

Meron akong dalawang ate. Sila ang una kong pinaghugutan para umpisahan ang paglikha ng karakter ni ate.

Mahalaga ring balikan ang simpleng pagpapakita ng mga emosyon sa pagguhit ng tuwa at inis, takot at payapa, saya at lungkot sa mga sitwasyon ng kuwento.

Pero ang unang biswal na tumatak kaagad sa isip ko ay ang yung nasa cover – yung agawan ng dalawa sa remote control ng TV. Alam ko kaagad na ito ang magiging biswal ko para sa cover.

6.  Anong medium ka pinakakomportable sa paglikha at paguhit?

Watercolor, color pencil at fine-point pens.

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