iRead@Home returns with new lessons and activities. This time, with a new website to boot.
The campaign was an annual face-to-face tradition for the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB)-based Development Communicators’ Society (DCS). It was also then known as simply “iRead.” Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the project shifted to the Internet instead around late-2020.
Different platforms aside, the goal of the initiative remained the same: promoting reading literacy among children.
Quoting the initiative’s tagline of “touching young lives, unfolding great dreams,” UPLB DCS member and iRead@Home co-head Clarence Collado discussed the importance of their work. She explained to Yahoo! Philippines that “literacy is essential to learning. Young children benefit from reading in a variety of ways, with creativity and curiosity among the most evident development outcomes.”
From a wider perspective, Collado believed that the project would contribute in achieving the fourth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of Quality Education. This goal’s targets included accessible and equitable learning for students of all cultures, genders, and other demographics by 2030 through building facilities, training teachers, and organizing scholarships among other initiatives.
Although the Philippines aspires for educational greatness, past and present statistics shows that the nation still has a long way to go.
In terms of reading comprehension, results from the Southeast Asia Primary Learning Metrics (SEA-PLM) 2019, 27% of fifth grade students are stuck at only being able to “match single words to an image of a familiar object or concept.” 45% of them are described as having limited capacity to express themselves through writing.
About three years later, new data from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations (UN) Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the World Bank showed that only less than 10% of Filipino children can process simple texts and narratives. An Inquirer.net report explained that difficulties brought on by the online-remote learning set-up among other issues contributed to this.
It is these issues that iRead@Home attempts to address.
iRead@Home initially found its footing on their Facebook page and DCS’ YouTube channel. It is here that users can tune-in to episodes that cover different topics, such as vowels and COVID-19 safety tips.
“For the first season, all the media materials from the script, character design, lesson plans, filming, editing, and even marketing, were researched and shown to the members of the organization. Often, the first viewers of the iRead @ Home videos were the younger siblings of the organization’s members whom we heard immediate insights from,” Collado recalled.
For their second season, they will be diving deeper into literacy and will be featuring new characters named “Bantay” and “Bibo.” Adding to these was the launch of the campaign’s new interactive website (publicly unveiled last April 11), where learners can freely access activities, flashcards, storybooks from the Department of Human and Family Development Studies – College of Human Ecology, UPLB (DHFDS-CHE) and the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) Philippines, and videos to complement their studies.
“The website was an experimental project by the members. We just wanted to make reading more engaging for kids. Our thought was ‘what if we made all of our materials available to them in just one platform which they can easily navigate?’ At the time, an interactive website was the first that came to mind,” Collado continued.
When asked about offline accessibility, Collado said that “[UPLB DCS] acknowledge[s] that not all children may be able to access [their] online materials but it may be useful for the children who have access to them.”
Related to this, she mentioned that DCS will be partnering with Bay, Laguna-established Sto. Domingo Elementary School, whose first grade students are this season’s “primary stakeholders,” to distribute offline materials (contents of which include digital and physical copies of videos and worksheets, as well as a planned “care package” whose specifics are still being planned as of writing). The organization is slated to visit the school around June.
With this season and the first as their stepping stones, Collado hoped that the program would grow in the future.
“Together with our sponsors and partners, we aim to increase awareness of the website through sharing and getting the word out, mostly through word-of-mouth and close relations. Hopefully, with our media partnerships we will be able to reach more children,” she said.
Production was not without its challenges, as Collado explained that members juggled their work with time constraints and undergraduate requirements. She added that “rigorous pitching and pre-testing among members” were involved in the process.
Collado then discussed that their creative process involved collaborating with members and assessing the limitations brought upon by the pandemic. She described the campaign as being “a product of months of preparation and production with the vision of ‘a future where every parent is a teacher and every home is a place for learning.’”
The co-head then said that the initiative involved applying what the members learned from taking-up BS Development Communication.
“For iRead@Home, majority of what the project required were tackled from our courses that tackle Development Broadcasting and Telecommunications and Educational Communication so we applied those in our production (e.g. scripts, character design, post-editing, etc.). And of course, as we [are] in DevCom practice, pre-testing and post-testing have been essential parts for the success of our advocacy project,” she continued.
In the end, Collado hoped that the project would soar even after the pandemic.
“Hopefully, when the time comes that face-to-face activities like iRead would be allowed, we will be able to again conduct this advocacy project by visiting the children in their schools where we will be able to share with them our very own learning materials which they can utilize as much as they want,” she concluded.
iRead@Home’s second season will feature four episodes, with a new one being released through their Facebook page every Wednesday until May 18, 2022.
(UPDATE: New character names are corrected from “Adlaw” and “Maya” to “Bantay” and “Bibo” in the twelfth paragraph. All mentions of “DCS” are also changed to “UPLB DCS.”)
Reuben Pio Martinez is a news writer who covers stories on various communities and scientific matters. He regularly tunes-in to local happenings. The views expressed are his own.
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