The 10 a.m. and 3 p.m habit of kids in Baras, Rizal

BARAS, Rizal - Kids here are now getting used to the town-wide 10 o’clock and 3 o’clock habit, not for doing other things, but to read books and other reading materials.

A Reading Warrior guides the kids in a community in Baras, Rizal as part of the BR-B4 Program of the Schools Division of Rizal of the Department of Education. (Photo Courtesy of Public Schools District Baras Sub Office)

When the clock strikes 10 in the morning and three in the afternoon, children -- mostly in pre-school and elementary school levels -- are holding, not their toys or gadgets - but reading materials provided by the Public Schools District Baras Sub Office (PSDBSO) of the Department of Education.

In Barangay Rizal, Chairman Everlee Albino, told Manila Bulletin via Google Meet organized by the PSDBSO, that young children along with either their parents, relatives, or Sangguniang Kabataan members, or even village leaders, who act as their personal reading coach are getting used to the habit.        

The reading coaches, numbering around 1,178 and counting, are called ‘Reading Warriors’ who are volunteers from the community who teach the children to read at their preferred time of the day, Monday to Friday.

PSDBSO Supervisor, Dr. Pitsberg De Rosas told Manila Bulletin the reading program is known in the entire province as the ‘Barangayan Para sa Bawat Bata Bumabasa (BRB4) Program, a reading advocacy initiated by the Schools Division Office (SDO) of Rizal that aims to uplift reading and literacy among the children in the province.

As of August 14, there are now more than 1,000 volunteers, who are either parents, SK members, retired teachers, or church leaders, who teach the children to read books and other learning materials and modules, in this municipality alone.

In some communities, the BR-B4 reading session starts at the signal of a siren, or a text message from the village office.

Couple Reading Warriors, Agnes and Alberto Abejuela said they have devised their own way of encouraging their kids to read, including giving them treats when their 45-minute session is over. “Ang hamon lang sa aming mga Reading Warriors ay kung paano namin maiaalis ang atensyon ng mga bata sa mga cellphone at gadget (The challenge for us Reading Warriors is how we can remove the attention of the kids from mobile phones and gadgets),” Alberto said.

SK Chairperson Camille An Matignas said some SK member-youth volunteers handle several kids at a time, observing strict physical distancing and health protocols during reading sessions.

Baras Pinugay Senior High School head Kristine Joy Pedroso, Pinugay Elementary School Principal Jonnalyn Alcolea, and Malalim Elementary School Principal Jenny San Andres, are all optimistic that the number of volunteers will increase especially now that the opening of classes has been moved to October 5.

Mil Ponciano, focal person of the BR-B4 Program of SDO Rizal said the success of the program is dependent on the community’s involvement, from the provincial government, down to the barangay unit heads, school heads and the volunteers.

Ponciano said the BR-B4 Program has three strands: the Beginning Reading for Kinder to Grade 3 level kids; Remedial Reading for Grade 4 to 12, and Reinforcement Reading for Grade 1 to 10.

The Reading Warriors use specific modules and reading materials prepared by the SDO Rizal with the support of the respective local government units, and the private sector.

Baras Mayor Kathrine Robles told Manila Bulletin the local government has donated several printing machines to the PSDBSO which the office has been using in printing the reading materials and modules.