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Read-Along celebrates women smarts, power

Children heard stories celebrating smart, strong women during the Inquirer’s Saturday morning Read-Along session to mark Women’s Month.

News anchor Pia Arcangel and Sophia School’s Ann Abacan and Sally Villaruz read the stories to some 60 children who attended the session at the Inquirer main office in Makati City.

The young audience included  15 Thais from Sophia’s sister school Samroiyod Wittayakhom, whose students have been attending Read-Along sessions since the two educational institutions started three years ago an exchange program.

Arcangel, anchor for GMA News TV’s “24 Oras Weekend” and “Balitanghali,” read Christine Bellen’s “Ang Binibining Tumalo sa Hari” (The Maiden who Defeated the King), the story of a young woman who had to outsmart a datu (king) to marry her beloved prince.

Sophia’s principal, Abacan, read Adarna House’s “Diwayen,” the story of a young slave girl whose courage saved the princess, by Augie Rivera.

Abacan and Villaruz capped the session with a lively narration of Rhandee Garlitos’ “Chenelyn! Chenelyn!” Also from Adarna, it told the story of a hardworking helper, who was highly valued by the family she worked for.

Start ’em young

Arcangel, who was accompanied by sports anchor husband Mico Halili and 6-year-old daughter Mickey, said she enjoyed reading to the kids. “It was really enjoyable, though it was daunting at first. It’s really different compared to when you’re just looking at a camera. Here, you can immediately see their reactions,” she said.

Arcangel stressed the importance of teaching young children to honor women. “I think it is important to teach kids, especially boys, at a young age to respect women. It’s something they will take with them as they grow older,” she said. “It is also important to teach young girls that they have the power to do many things—that they have the right to do these things.”

She added, “What’s good about the story is that the lead character Sharay did not try to outdo the datu physically—instead, she thought things through.”

Sineenart Khongnomnan, head of the English program of Samroiyod Wittayakhom, led the delegation from Thailand. “The goal of this (student exchange) program is to strengthen relationships with the Philippines, to practice our English skills, to learn more about the Filipino culture and to share our culture as well,” she said.

During the monthlong visit hosted by Sophia School, Thai students, aged 13-14, tour different schools to learn more about the Philippines’ educational system. They live with Filipino families who help them learn as much as they can about the local culture.

“Our students love it here. Even if (our) stay (is) short, they make friends with Filipino children (easily),” Khongnomnan said.

Confidence builder

During the session, some of the Thai girls performed a traditional Thai dance. After the performance, they talked about how Thai girls were taught a specific hand exercise to make their gestures graceful and precise.

“The children really enjoyed being part of the Read-Along. It gives them confidence because Thai children are normally shy,” Khongnomnan said. “But when they see young kids actively participating, it boosts their confidence, too.”

“This is my third year to bring children to the Inquirer and we are thankful for the chance to immerse children in this kind of activity,” Khongnomnan added.

Thai student: Unforgettable

One of the Thai students, 14-year-old Pattawaran Boonchoo, said the experience was “unforgettable.”

“Filipinos are friendly and really nice. I made a lot of friends and they all welcomed us warmly. They shared their culture with us and were also willing to learn from us,” she said, adding that she learned a lot from the Read-Along. “Storytelling for kids is really fun. I enjoyed being part of this program because I can see that the kids enjoyed it, too.”

“This Read-Along will improve (the kids’) comprehension. It will help them understand the story by listening,” said Malen Idamla, a Grade 6 adviser from St. Anthony of Makati Montessori Inc.

“This is my first time to attend the Read-Along. It’s interactive and it will motivate the children to read more,” said parent Ria Zamora.

Asked what their favorite stories were, Sean Yater, Grade 3 student from St. Anthony, said he liked the lively narration of the story “Chenelyn! Chenelyn!”, while 9-year-old Christine Crisostomo, who came with the Child of Asia Philippines group, said she enjoyed the story read by Arcangel.

“I liked the story narrated by Ms Pia because it was a good story,” added Mar Angelo Solano, who likes stories about animals.

Saturday’s session, hosted by Junior Inquirer editor in chief Ruth Navarra, was in cooperation with GMA News TV, which provided giveaways for the children after the program. Books donated by Rotary Club of Makati were given away as prizes during the question-and-answer portion after each story. With reports from Kate Pedroso, Ana Roa and Marielle Medina, Inquirer Research