It’s not easy to convince children to choose vegetables and fruits over sweets and junk food, but storytelling definitely helps.
Stories make the lessons stick harder and sound so much fun, some 80 children from the Pasig Library Hub, like Fernando Ma. Guerrero Elementary School, and Antonio Regidor Elementary School learned for themselves during Saturday’s Inquirer Read-Along at the newspaper’s main office in Makati.
The session in celebration of Nutrition Month featured actor and Read-Along reading ambassador Mark Neumann, veteran actress Boots Anson-Rodrigo, Sophia School principal Ann Abacan and 2011 Read-Along Festival Storytelling Champion Quemer Bagaporo.
Rodrigo and Neumann read in tandem the story “Joey at ang Gulay Gang” by Beng Alba, about the adventures of a malnourished kid named Joey and how he learns the value of eating vegetables.
Returning Read-Along champion Bagaporo read “Filemon Mamon” by Christine Bellen, about an obese child determined to be healthy and fulfill his dream of playing Andres Bonifacio in a school play.
Abacan capped the session with “Bob the Blob” by Ferdinand Pisigan Jarin, about a child who manages to lose weight by exercising and eating nutritious food despite being indulged by his own mother.
Abacan, a nutritionist, also gave personal tips on what food to avoid in order to become healthier.
“The kids were very energetic. I’m glad they liked my gimmick of impersonating the characters,” said returning reader Neumann, now on his fourth Read-Along session. “I hope they learned [the value of] eating vegetables. It’s OK to eat junk food sometimes but they should prioritize eating healthy food,” he said.
For Rodrigo, whose first Inquirer Read-Along session was in 2009, it is always energizing to interact with children. “It is rejuvenating when you read with kids. I’m glad they were able to answer questions from the story,” she said.
Rodrigo plays the iconic but modern version of “Lola Basyang” in the new TV5 fantasy series, “LolaBasyang.com,” where she narrates classic Filipino legends and folk tales through webcam.
“This time, Lola Basyang reaches out to the modern realm of her grandchildren by being a tech-savvy grandmother who knows how to blog and use social media,” the veteran actress said. Reading, in whatever platform, encourages the imagination and challenges the reader, she added.
Hailed as the Festival Storytelling King at the first Read-Along Festival held at the GT Toyota Auditorium in Quezon City in 2011, Bagaporo described the experience of reading anew to children as “very rewarding.”
“At first I was intimidated because celebrity readers had their turn before me and I was afraid the kids won’t pay attention anymore. But they still listened well and interacted with me. The experience was fulfilling,” he said, adding that he was personally touched by Filemon’s story.
Being a storytelling champion has helped him in so many ways, Bagaporo said. “It was my grandmother’s ailment that drove me to join the contest four years ago,” he said. “With my prize money I was able to help buy her medicines. The contest also opened many opportunities for me and helped me become more confident,” he added. “I feel really thankful.”
The young listeners were as appreciative. Said 11-year-old Prince of F. Guerrero Elementary School: “Children should eat nutritious food. I realized after each story that children become happier after they’ve eaten healthy food and exercised.”
Rade Anne, 11, from Maybunga Elementary School, said, “We should eat balanced meals so we can stay healthy.”
Janelle, 10, from Dr. Sixto Antonio Elementary School, said she learned that “nothing is impossible and we should work diligently if we want to achieve something.”
Junior Inquirer editor Ruth Navarra-Mayo hosted the session held in cooperation with the TV5’s Baker King and LolaBasyang.com teams—IdeaFirst Company led by director-producers Perci Intalan and Jun Robles Lana, Al Sumayo, Rohj Mariano and Jan Bautista of TV5, and Dennis Mendoza of the Pasig Library Hub. The TV5 team brought healthy snacks for the kids.