It was an extraordinary activity for 60 preschoolers from day-care centers in three barangays in Naga City. They trooped to the Raul S. Roco Library to celebrate National Children’s Book Reading Day with an Inquirer Read-Along session.
The children, aged 5-6 years old, from Dayangdang, San Felipe and Lerma huddled close to Farrah Bongat, wife of Naga City Mayor John Bongat, and opened their hearts to her as she narrated the story of how a young boy conquered his fear of darkness.
Bongat read “Si Ching na Takot sa Dilim,” written by Aleli Dew Batnag and illustrated by Paul Eric Roca. The story is about Ching who overcame his fear of “creatures that lurk in the dark” because of a power outage.
Like some children, Ching cannot sleep with the lights turned off. For “protection from monsters,” he always keeps a solar flashlight beside him.
One night, while he is left alone by his mother who had to run on an errand, power goes out in the neighborhood.
With the batteries of his cree LED flashlight spent, Ching discovers the beautiful things that glow in the dark, such as the eyes of his cat and the stars in the night sky.
After the storytelling, the children told Bongat that they, too, feared the dark because of “monsters and ghosts that exist with darkness.”
“Darkness is not all bad,” she said as she allayed their concerns.
Bongat said “it’s important to read stories laden with good values to children because during this stage (childhood) in their life it is easy for them to absorb and live those values.”
The library section that served as venue for the read-along has been dedicated to acclaimed Filipino writer Bienvenido Santos, whose works were inspired by landmarks and life in Albay and Camarines Sur, such as “The Volcano” and some narratives in “You Lovely People,” a collection of short stories.
It was inaugurated on March 14 as a “special gift” of the city government to Santos, whose 100th birthday was celebrated on March 22.
The library itself was named after the well-loved Bicolano senator and wide reader who died in 2005.
Librarian Federico J. Vinluan said the read-along was part of the library’s three-day celebration of the nationwide Book Reading Day.
Around 300 children, aged 4-10 years, from public elementary schools all over the city were invited to other event activities, including a book fair, newspaper-reading and a musical program.
“It is important to impart to children love of reading at an age when they are very curious. This is when they learn many things, including good values, and the time when they need them most,” Vinluan said.