Filipino children need to develop a habit of reading to improve literacy, according to United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) during the celebration of SM Supermalls’ National Children’s Book Reading Day held simultaneously in all 58 SM malls nationwide, and seven in China.
UNICEF emphasized on the importance of reading to children as much as possible, and at an early age. During the event, UNICEF ambassadors read books to select elementary school children per area. Daphne Osena-Paez and Lara Precious Quigaman were in SM Southmall, with Gary Valenciano taking the task in SM Megamall. Aside from UNICEF, the event was also in partnership with Vibal Publishing, National Bookstore and the Department of Education. The annual event is a project of SM Cares, SM Supermalls’ CSR arm, for children.
“Reading is very important, especially since we don’t have a reading culture in the Philippines. Our children are missing out on a lot of things,” said Michelle Parazo-Borromeo, head of UNICEF Private Fundraising and Partnerships.
Boromeo cited studies that show young children who are read to everyday get their brains stimulated early for learning. Their learning ability, eventually, will be ahead of their peers.
Paez, who read to students of Almanza Elementary School in Las Pinas, believes that book reading in a mall is a good idea because it gives a chance to a wider audience to find out about the benefits of reading to children.
“Having it in a fun place with a dynamic environment like SM, with celebrities reading to kids, gives the advocacy another dimension,” Paez said. UNICEF was able to show an animated visual aid to the kids through a large screen while the reading was taking place.
SM’s National Children’s Book Reading Day coincides with the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), of which the Philippines is a signatory. To commemorate this significant milestone in children’s rights, UNICEF reissued six of its published books that revolve around the themes on children’s rights, gender stereotypes, conflict resolution, among others.
When SM learned about the reissued books, the mall management suggested that UNICEF participate in their National Children’s Book Reading Day. It was iteration for the National Children’s Book Day, which was started more than 30 years ago by the Philippine Board on Books for Young People.
“What SM did is great because it’s more focused on reading,” Borromeo said. “We actually work a lot with SM because the company supports UNICEF’s advocacies like exclusive breastfeeding and proper nutrition.”
SM and UNICEF’s partnership began in 2008 under the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) program. It started with SM Drink for Two wherein every purchase of SM bottled water gives 25 centavos to UNICEF for the organization’s water sanitation facilities projects for schools and communities in the Philippines.