Text by: Kimmy Baraoidan
Photos by: Chris Quintana and Kimmy Baraoidan
Carlos Palanca Award and National Book Award winner Ferdinand Pisigan Jarin and renowned comics artist Manuel “Manix” Abrera join forces in their latest work, Si Kaitlin at ang Game Machine (Kaitlin and the Game Machine).
The children’s book was launched last February 23, 2015 at the Main Building Auditorium of the Philippine Normal University in Ermita, Manila. The book is about a girl named Kaitlin who spends most of her time playing on her tablet until she meets a talking machine that would take her to a place that would eventually change her.
Guests at the book launch were Genaro Ruiz Gojo Cruz, a famous writer of children’s stories, and Danilo Niño Calalang of Vibal Publishing, who each gave a short talk. Cruz commented on the status of reading among schoolchildren and on the dropout rates in public schools. He said reading is on the decline while dropout rates are rising. One factor he sees is that most books are not engaging enough, and most students cannot relate to these books, which lead to disinterestedness.
I know this to be true not only in the elementary level because I have experienced this myself recently as a college instructor. During my stint at a private school, one of the subjects I taught was Philippine Literature. Almost all of the short stories prescribed in the syllabus were old – written before my students were born. Well, actually, even before I was born. I am not disregarding the importance of studying the classics, but my point is there should also be new and relevant material in order to engage the students. Most of my students were not interested in reading the material at all, not even the first page.
Cruz also recommended that writers of children’s books write happy stories so that when these children look back, they will remember the happy times. We are only young once, he said. “Because that’s what we storytellers do. We restore order with imagination. We instill hope again and again and again,” said Walt Disney to P.L. Travers in the movie Saving Mr. Banks.
I believe writers should tell stories that children would enjoy so that they would be encouraged to read more. “Sa libro napaparusahan ang masama (In books, the bad is being punished),” said Cruz, “nasa panitikan ang pag-asa (in literature resides hope).”