Reading culture in Davao

IN PRIMARY education, the basic skills taught to the students before they move on to another level of schooling is arithmetic, writing, and reading, with reading coming first of all three.

In Davao Region, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) recorded that in 2015 almost 98 percent of the people living in the region aged 10 and above can read and write a simple message in any language. This is an impressive number of literacy rate in the region.

On July 18, 2018 Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio signed the Executive Order No. 19 titled “Reconstituting the Davao City Literacy Coordinating Council”. The EO was created to “eliminate literacy within its component barangays. As such, the City Government of Davao shall support all plans, programs, and activities leading to 100 percent literacy rate in Davao City through the creation of a local literacy coordinating council.”

Department of Education (DepEd) Matina District has a specialized program for students who have difficulty catching up reading and writing. In an article by Marie Iris Maquindang of DepEd Matina District published by SunStar Davao, she said their remedial reading is a change in instruction that helps remedy a weakness in the area of reading.

“Remedial programs are designed to close the gap between what a student knows and what he’s expected to know. Considering that each child is unique and capable to learn, every reading teacher should consider the learners’ needs to know where to start. That is why, every start of the school year, they are being assessed then tracked of their reading progress. Reading remedial comes in,” Janice Montalvo, Matina District reading coordinator, said.

The basic skill of reading had already been taught in school while the children are growing up. However, how they stay interested and how they cultivate this interest until adulthood sometimes rely on their upbringing and their very environment.

I grew up with parents who value reading. As a child, I was told by my mother to read newspapers even if I couldn’t understand all the words just yet. I was told to just read and read until the meaning of the words just come naturally through context clues or with the help of the dictionary. Since then, I read everything I could get a hold of – encyclopedias at home, pamphlets, calendars, story books, street posters, even the back labels of food wrappers.

But not anyone can be as lucky. Filipinos may be taught how to read but they are rarely taught how to continue being interested in reading.

Reading on your own free will

When Dabawenyo students are not forced to read for a school requirement, what do they read on their leisure time?

According to Ria Valdez, a Humanities and Social Sciences (HUMSS) track teacher of Senior High School students at Davao City National High School, her students are more interested to read contents they find online such as Wattpad titles, Lang Leav, and novels-turned-popular-movies such as Divergent, 50 shades of Gray, and Harry Potter among many others.

“I think that social media has played the biggest role in their reading interests because social media has instilled in them how instant everything should be. As I noticed, students of today would rather understand quickly than decipher thoroughly,” Valdez shared, adding that her students are particularly fond of “hugot” poem snippets posted on Facebook.

Book Duke is an independent bookstore on Facebook based in Davao City that currently has more than 6,000 likes and followers as of writing.

“Of the 1,200 customers we have transacted with since opening shop, more than half are from Metro Manila. Davao City comes next although with only 13 percent of the total, or around 150 customers. Out of the 150 though, only around 20 are active regular customers,” said Kelvin Yu, owner of Book Duke, in an interview with SunStar Davao.

Yu would regularly put up new posts on his page to be reserved by his followers who have the options for a meet-up or for the books to be shipped, if they live outside Davao City. As the page continues to progress and gather attention from outside the city, Yu recognizes that more people outside Davao City are fond of ordering despite the shipping cost versus those from the city who have the option for a meet-up.

“The number of Davao-based customers we have per month varies. There is usually an increase in the number of customers when we hold promos and sales,” added Yu.

For her part, what Valdez does to further cultivate her students’ interest in reading, she assigns a reading list in class on subject matters she thinks her students are interested in like love, LGBT, sex, and pop culture.

As reading is also a vital tool to improve the critical thinking and opinion-making skills of the students, Valdez also said she makes it a point to make them read articles on subject matters that may disturb them but that they need to know about like Lumad killings, rape, and extrajudicial killings. Through these, students appreciate the value of reading as more than entertainment but as a vessel of information that helps for a more sound judgement and opinion on societal matters.

According to Yu, his customers, including those from Davao City, are interested to read fantasy, mystery, and philosophy. He said there is also a growing interest in poetry, critical theory, and graphic novels and comic books.

“Our best-selling books by title and author will further enlighten us with the genres our customers love. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov is our #1 best-seller. This is followed by A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, The Stranger/The Outsider by Albert Camus, and The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupery,” Yu shared.

“We have also focused on getting out-of-print editions of popular titles. This is one of the reasons why book lovers seek out secondhand bookstores – to find those earlier covers and rare editions for their collections,” he added.

The value of reading

Recently, Grade 10 student Lorenzo Puentespina made waves on social media after putting up the Lib of Positivity, a street library to encourage passersby to borrow books and return the books after reading. Dabawenyos can also donate used books. The Lib of Positivity is located in Brgy. Wilfredo Aquino, Agdao, Davao City near Assumption College of Davao.

The library garnered positive response from the community and continues to receive donations from other Dabawenyos.

Valdez imparts to the students how reading is important for them. “I always tell them that they can’t write well if they don’t read enough. This goes for both academic and literary writing. Reading educates you in terms socio-political issues through their portrayal in literature and through straight news,” she said. She added that reading improves the students’ style, grammar, and semantics to help them have a better command of the language.

Davao City may have a long way to go to being called a “reading community” but with school and independent bookstore initiatives, the city may be taking the necessary steps to developing a thinking and a critical-minded reading community.


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