EmpoweREAD: Lessons on the power of reading from a non-profit

Published September 6, 2020, 7:02 AM

by Alex M. Eduque

When I was two years old, I memorized, from cover to cover, The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids. I was read to every night before bedtime. A creature of habit, even before I could talk in complete sentences, I would pick the same book over and over again. Whenever I would hear the last few words of the page, on cue, I would turn the page. My version of show and tell, I would “read” The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids to my relatives, deceiving them into thinking I could read. The praise and positive affirmation always made me feel good. And when I learned to properly read soon after, I found how empowering it could be.

Years later, I started MovEd as an off-shoot of my undergraduate thesis and today, on its seventh year, we continue our work in early childhood development and empowering young Filipinos through our education and reading programs in underserved communities around the country.

During my junior year in college, the units I was taking to complete an education psychology course presented me with some alarming statistics. The one that stood our most prominently in my books, and what convinced me that I needed to do something in the Philippines, was a UNICEF study that cited Grade One as having the highest drop-out rate in developing countries. Why? Simply because of the learned helplessness that develops in children, brought about by their inability to read (both written words and counting numbers). Bringing that a few steps back, this is because of a lack of school preparedness and readiness oftentimess due to the absence of proper early childhood education programs and pre-schools.

The year MovEd was born was the first year the Philippines implemented the K to 12 curriculum. At the time, this brought about a lot more awareness on the need to boost the typical daycare programs being facilitated by the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) in order to ensure that children were not only being taught, but also being sufficiently prepared for the first level of schooling at public schools.

At MovEd, we make certain that the contents of our lessons and curriculum are in line with the topics put forth by DSWS. We also make sure to cover elements at the first level of school prescribed by the Department of Education (DepEd), in an attempt to put our students ahead of the game. What we focus on heavily is the pedagogy—the method in which these lessons are taught—and the training of our teachers to optimize results. While a lot of our lessons are play-based given the ages of the children we work with, a substantial amount of it is based on storybooks and reading. From the teachers reading aloud to the students to the students gradually learning syllables, our goal is for the students to eventually become independent readers.

When I was a kid, suffice to say, I was a bookworm. I would be in the library every day, checking out new books. Whether or not the titles varied on a daily basis is another story, but these books came home with me, and my dolls. I would read aloud to them like my elementary school teachers would during circle time. 

My own personal goal for our MovEd students, beyond giving them the foundation for lifelong learning, is to impart in them a love for books, to teach them to realize that so much can be achieved through reading. That is why we aim for every student who goes through the MovEd program to be able to read (both written words and counting numbers) when they walk out of our doors.

I have always believed there to be power with knowledge, and reading is one of the ways in which we are able to share tidbits of information and gain knowledge. Based on my own personal experiences and that of MovEd’s, for children, and most especially with the age group we work with where studies have shown the most rapid growth of cognitive development, I find that reading is a very effective way to ingrain values in them, and an efficient way to get a message across. With themes seamlessly sewn into the plot of a story, children almost always remember these lessons in relation to what a character did. They are likely to emulate the actions of the protagonist, to associate the actions of the antagonist as wrong, and then eventually carry these learnings along with them for the rest of their lives.

My own personal goal for our MovEd students, beyond giving them the foundation for lifelong learning, is to impart in them a love for books and to teach them to realize that so much can be achieved through reading.

In today’s age, when technology has rampantly taken over, the importance of reading is not lessened. For children to be able to navigate through webpages, social media sites, and to simply follow instructions, they must be able to read. Knowing this, we must exert the extra effort to impart a love for learning through reading in our young learners. Only then will they be motivated to learn a lifelong skill that will get them through this world, beyond the confines of school, but through the many multiple facets of life.

In teaching our children and our children’s children to read, we are essentially empowering them. It forms the foundation that the rest of a child’s education is built upon. It equips them with a skill that will enhance their way of life, and that empowers them to know and to learn. We are gifting the children with a tool to navigate through this world that, once learned and mastered, can never be taken away. Remember, a child who can read is “empoweREAD” for life.

About the author

Alex Eduque is the chairwoman and founder of MovEd, a non-profit organization that provides early childhood care and development programs in underserved communities through holistic education. The first pre-school opened in 2012 at a Habitat for Humanity site, as Eduque was previously Youth Council founder and chairperson of the organization. Since then, MovEd has helped hundreds of young children and their families through their education program, family care center, and health program.

For more information, check out www.moved.org.ph

This artcle was first published in the March 2020 issue of the Philippine Panorama.