Saturday, June 01, 2013

Keepers of the faith

THE CHALK trick worked like magic. Or should have, if only some wise guys did not repeat the trick every year.

At St. Theresa’s College (STC), some textbooks were rented. Before the school year ended, we returned the books but not before readying these for next year’s users.

The most unpopular task was sanding the sides of a book. Sandpaper was rubbed carefully to remove the stains without tearing old, fragile paper.

Every year, I was resigned to a day or two of sneezing. Increasing my annoyance was inhaling dust from textbooks I hardly opened. And then in fourth grade, I saw some classmates rub chalk on the sides, turn in their copy with immaculate sides, and walk away as cool as cats.

Perhaps the gods that spot cheaters were back from coffeebreak because when I tried the same trick, my teacher opened and slammed shut my book in quick succession. Not only did I inhale paper AND chalk dust, I had to sand the sides until the book looked as if it had jumped straight from some virgin forest. To think that I read no more than five pages of that grammar tome.

My short-lived career as a chalk artist made me realize some shortcuts take longer and are dustier. And a book is loved best when it is read and shared.

Thus, nothing strikes greater horror than coming upon a school library with books that look as if they were last opened when someone wrapped the covers with plastic. Reacting to “The empty shelf” (published in this space last May 19, 2013), Ara Chawdhury, a University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu alumna, recalled that in a public school she attended, the library was held off-limits to students. The librarian was afraid that the few books they had would be ruined or stolen.

Despite our chalk tricks and other antics, my STC teachers and librarians drummed in us the principle that loving the written word meant never defacing a book.

How are readers created? Ara suggests storybook reading and storytelling sessions when books are few and have to be shared.

Reacting to the same Facebook thread (permission was given to quote them), UP Cebu alumnae Eva Marie “M” Gamboa and Cris Evert Lato wrote about Basadours. “M” said they are “volunteer ambassadors” advocating for literacy by holding storytelling sessions with kids of various places and groups.

As a Cebu Daily News journalist covering the threatened closure of the Cebu City Public Library (CCPL) in 2008 and later volunteering with the Friends of CCPL, Cris felt that closing the library was “purely unacceptable”. Yet, she also saw how the place had become a “cemetery of dead books”.

“For us, Basadours, the library should be an activity center. Kanang sadya, bibo ug naay kinabuhi,” wrote Cris.

Fun and life. That’s exactly what’s in the rapt faces and wide-eyed expressions of public and private school children joining the Basadours’ storythons, storytelling, read-along and story writing sessions held at the CCPL, various daycare centers, barangay reading centers, barangays, and towns in Cebu and Mandaue.

Their Facebook page informs that the fledgling organization just turned two this year. Gathering young professionals as diverse as librarians, teachers, nurses, lawyers, media personalities and filmmakers, the Basadours partners with government, non-government and private entities to tell kids that nothing is cooler than reading.

After more than a hundred enthusiasts showed up for the first “Storytelling 101” last May 18, the Basadours invites the public to join another free training at CCPL on June 8, 2013.

Yet, if reading to a tough audience of young readers is not your thing, you may just be like Peedi Aranas who, when she was a teacher, opened her classroom during recess and lunch break for those who wanted to rest from scrapes, read, draw or just listen to tales.

With a lot of faith, there will always be readers.

( 09173226131)

* First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s June 2, 2013 issue of the “Matamata” Sunday main op-ed column

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