I wasn’t keen on posting this on Rainy Days and Mom Days at first, because it isn’t quite a mommy/parenting topic. Then I realized that 1. I am a Mommy; 2. Promoting literacy and love for reading should be something important to all moms; and 3. If this post somehow prompts a reader to help out—whether for Silid Booklatan or something similar—then that’s justification enough.
Silid Booklatan—Buksan ang Isip, Buksan ang Mundo started as a vision almost seven years ago. I wanted a comfortable, bright and airy place where people could just come in and enjoy reading. Then a couple months back, my friend, Suzanne, who works for Barangay Fort Bonifacio, mentioned that the Barangay had just put up a new building in one of the sitios, and that they needed to put a library in it (the building was donated by the Swiss government, I think, and the library was one of the provisos). So I told her that I already had a concept paper for something like that (when it fact it was only a blog post), and she asked me to present it to the Barangay (which naturally induced panic, since as mentioned, I did not have a concept paper; and what did I know about presenting to the government?). One thing led to another, and here I am, about to set up two reading rooms.
At this point, I simply have to say—how cool is God? I’d never have thought that the reading room idea I had years ago would ever come into fruition, let alone two. And even better, Silid Booklatan can help other people, who may not otherwise have the opportunity, to discover the joy of reading. With Silid Booklatan, I’m part of something that can make a big difference in people’s lives. And even more amazing is how God is orchestrating everything—volunteers, donations, things moving (relatively) quickly—and how everything is falling into place.
I feel so blessed to be part of this, and blessed to be working with people who are willing to give so much. The designers from UPIDAA, for example—Migs, Reese, Nik and Vincent—are working together to design the rooms so that the space is maximized, while remaining true to the original concept (bright, comfortable, conducive to reading). They’re also coming up with a logo for Silid Booklatan, helping look for sponsors, and helping us get some publicity. Carlo Tadiar, editor of Metro Home magazine hooked us up (definitely more of God’s favor right there). My friend Roch shipped me excess books from her own street kids library project (more than 13kg worth of books!). Suzanne works tirelessly behind the scenes, coordinating with us and with the Barangay. Her bosses, Administrator Jorge Bocobo and Barangay Captain Lino Cayetano, are also very supportive.
But I digress. So what exactly is Silid Booklatan? Here’s an excerpt from the media kit:
This is the driving force behind Silid Booklatan—Buksan ang Isip, Buksan ang Mundo: to promote reading in the underprivileged communities by providing venues, reading materials, reading-related activities, and encouragement and support. The project name is a play on the project’s objectives of motivating people to read, thereby widening their horizons and opening a world of opportunities to them.
The Barangay Council of Barangay Fort Bonifacio (BFB) takes the lead in this pilot project, opening two community reading rooms in the less fortunate sitios in Taguig City. With Silid Booklatan, Barangay Fort Bonifacio aims to uplift the quality of life and provide opportunities for betterment for the people in the sitios.
Each Silid Booklatan is meant to be a place where people of all ages gather and hang out, experiencing the pleasure that reading can bring. Young children start on the right path to reading, and older children and adults are encouraged to give reading a chance. Aside from the books and other reading materials, Silid Booklatan will also organize various activities that highlight books and reading, and show how reading can be a part of daily life. Planned activities include storytelling sessions for children; literary readings for adults; Book of the Week, with Weekend Activity (e.g. the week’s feature book will be on herb gardening, the activity will be cooking with herbs); and livelihood-oriented workshops.
Working together with BFB are interior designers Migs Rosales, Reese Ferrer, Nikki Ann Pascual and Vincent Tan—all from the UP Interior Design Alumni Association (UPIDAA)—reading advocate and writer Rheea Hermoso-Prudente, and various private individuals. The UPIDAA will focus on creating multipurpose spaces that maximize the limited floor areas, and are inviting, comfortable, and conducive to reading. Rheea Hermoso-Prudente, meanwhile, will help conceptualize and organize Silid Booklatan’s activities and events, and will oversee the project’s book collections.
And here’s a partial list of activities I have in mind:
- Book of the Week. Each week, a different book—the topics and genre will vary each week—will be featured. There will be a summary of the book, highlights, and recommended books and events that tie in with topic of the book.
- Weekend Activity. Every weekend will have an activity tied in with the book of the week. We can have a landscape painting workshop to cap the week featuring a book on the life of Monet. For a book on herb gardening, we can have a hands-on demo of cooking with herbs.
- Story Time. On weekends, and on selected days throughout the week, we can have storytelling sessions for the children. After each session, there can be arts and crafts activities, guided story writing, and recommended books.
- Readings. Geared mostly for the adults, we can feature poetry readings, excerpts from the latest thrillers, or even Tagalog romances. This can even be serialized sessions of an entire book, similar to radio dramas.
- Livelihood Programs. We can have regular livelihood-oriented sessions to help boost income, such as soapmaking, candlemaking and the like. Books will be available to complement the sessions.
- English and Reading Lessons. We can also have reading improvement or learn-to-read sessions for children and adults, as well as sessions that can help improve written and spoken English.
- Ito Ang Trabaho Ko. Volunteers from different industries come in and talk about their jobs, and answer questions people may have. This can help broaden the people’s horizons about possible job opportunities. Of course, the talks will also be tied in with recommended books. Possible volunteers could include graphic artists and illustrators, comic book writers, sales managers, wedding coordinators, chefs, ballet dancers, etc.
- Kultura—Iba’t Iba. We can also expose the people to different cultures. A performance by a bagpipe player, for example, can accompany a book about Scotland. For the children, we can have string games from different parts of the world to go with a Children’s Atlas.
There are so many other things we can do, and I have to confess I’m a bit overwhelmed. Silid Booklatan has a wish list of books, equipment, and more volunteers. But more than that, we have to come up with a way to make the project apolitical, self-sustaining, and replicable (Silid Booklatan sa San Pablo! Silid Booklatan sa Baguio!). I and so open to ideas, suggestions and answers to issues like:
- Do we charge people when they come in and read? Initially, I was thinking everything should be free, but perhaps if they had to pay for it, even just five bucks a day, the people would value it more. Plus the money can go towards self-sustenance.
- This is more Suzanne’s issue, actually: will we require a Barangay ID (costs Php50) so they can borrow books?
- What borrowing/usage policies should we have in place?
- How do we maintain our collection of materials, how often do we change materials?
- What kinds of activities would work?
- What other stuff would help meet our goal of uplifting lives and just getting people to love reading?
And here’s the wish list:
Books and Reading Materials
Books, magazines and other reading materials in good condition (not torn up, overly used or missing pages) are welcome. Here’s a list of requested books from the Barangay Ladies’ League.
- Philippine History
- Books by Rizal, Francisco Baltazar
- World Lit
- Philippine Lit
- Physical Education
- Kasaysayan ng mga Bayani
- Folk dance
- Philippine culture
- Philippine constitution
- Philippine Geography
- English and Tagalog dictionaries and other reference books
- Biblical history
- Math books
- Values education
- Magazine subscriptions or back issues
- Furniture—chairs, tables, shelves, floor pillows, bean bags (to be coordinated with the UPIDAA)
- Construction materials—paint, wood, hardware, etc (to be coordinated with the UPIDAA)
- Computers with licensed software
- Printers and scanners
- Electric fans and airconditioners
- Pull-down projection screen
- Pens, pencils, markers, erasers, fasteners, etc
- Paper, notebooks, folders, filing supplies
- Library cards
- Plastic wrap and tape for the books
- Sticker labels
- Stamps, stamp pads and ink
- Printer ink
- Librarians—to help organize and maintain the books
- Storytellers—to read both to the adults and the children
- English teachers
- Copywriters, graphic designers and other creative people—to help come up with catchy campaigns to encourage the community members to read and participate in the Silid Booklatan activities
- People willing to talk about their jobs
- Experts or professionals willing to teach people specific skills, such as writing, drawing, cooking, singing, dancing, money management, etc
- Media people – to help spread the word about Silid Booklatan, to encourage more volunteers
- People who can highlight different cultures, such as a bagpipe player, a French chef, Spanish football player, etc
So much to do! And so much we need. But I know God’s grace and favor is with us on this, and the people we’re working with are fantastic, so I’m confident Silid Booklatan will do much good.
Thank you for reading this kilometric post, and please do drop me a line if you have any ideas or suggestions, or if you would like to volunteer or donate.