Moncada: Bring back story reading for children again

IT HAS become a routine for Susana Ruth Paigna, a mother to a five-month -old, to read stories from a physical book to her baby in the evening. She does it not to put her son to sleep but because she believes, as an educator, that reading to one's baby creates an awareness of the presence of each other.

For her, reading a book to one's baby is important because it creates a bond between the mother and the child. Her son's eyes used to be glued on her and his mouth mimics the sounds he hears whenever she reads to him at night but this has drastically changed, she has observed, after she has skipped reading a story to him for a week. She got worried.

"I just want to bring it back!"

She wants to bring back the love of parents for reading story books to young children. She thinks that it would be a fun and meaningful way to spend the home quarantine and more importantly to build a closer relationship with children through story time.

Susanna or Teacher Binggay, as she is fondly called, has always believed in the power of reading. She advocates for it, ever since, to every parent she meets in the preschool her family used to run, known by many in Barangay Bugo as Wonderyears. And even in Abu Dhabi where she works as an inclusion specialist in pediatric rehabilitation centers. She deals with children who have behavioral, educational, social, and emotional issues.

Spending time to read a physical book to a child may seem to be a little gesture but it can actually address a child's behavioral problems. It creates the relationship needed so that the child will look up to the parent as the authority who he or she has to follow. Reading a book to a child even if it is just for around five or ten minutes places the parents as authorities so, it cannot be despised.

Sadly, reading physical books have been replaced by the use of gadgets. Recently, she was invited to speak in an event attended by parents in Bugo where she shared her perception about the ill effects of digital screen time. She likened it to a drug that affects the language, most of all, she said, and as well as the social skills, and the focus and attention of children. As a preschool teacher, she has observed this and is so concerned about it.

She shared that she actually allows screen time for her five-month-old baby to sing the ABCs but only for about five minutes. Twenty to 30 minutes of screen time for two to three year olds is too much for her. But what is important, she emphasized, is the presence of the parent to guide the child while watching the screen. "As much as possible," she warned, "do not let technology like television or whatever gadget there is to replace you as a parent."

After her Facebook post in one of the groups related to Barangay Bugo, many have actually sent her a message to inquire about the book club she wants to organize. She got the Google survey prepared by her former classmate in Xavier University, as part of the process of membership. The downside though is that it seems that these parents do not have books they can pitch in. She was just asking for two books that they can then circulate amongst them and as a requirement for membership but it seems that they have none. She even offered parents to buy the two books needed in their behalf which can then be paid later but it seems they are not sure of shelling out money for the purchase.

She has her own collection of books though that she can lend to parents. Some of these she brought from Abu Dhabi, penned by famous authors like Eric Carle and Julia Donaldson. These are character-building and imagination-stimulating kind of books for preschoolers. These are her treasures which she has kept for quite a long time now since she was a special education major student that is why she wants an assurance that her books will be taken cared of properly when borrowed.

Susana and her family were actually scheduled to fly back to Abu Dhabi next month, June, but the threat of Covid-19 got in the way. She just really hopes that the book club she has been itching to organize since the start of the quarantine will be established before her family leaves. But it seems that with the uncertainty of the pandemic she still has a lot of time to plan and promote her advocacy and a lot more evenings to spend here in the Philippines when she will have to make sure she does not skip a night or two reading a story book for her son.


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