Just this December, the Philippines was reported to have scored lowest in reading comprehension in the 2018 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). Comments, mostly negative, were left and the foreseeable reason ranged from the poor education system to the meagre literature that the current generation has been consuming. While it is true that there have been shortcomings in our system of education, a different approach, in my view as a librarian, can be seen in boosting the score: through book clubs.
Understanding that reading comprehension is indeed a form of a conversation and application. Reading comprehension transcends the very text itself into its application. Reading then goes further than just reading long texts, but actually applying and understanding what the said text is trying to say or show. As the PISA 2018 report puts it: “Reading proficiency is essential for a wide variety of human activities - from following instructions in a manual; to finding out the who, what, when, where, and why of an event; to communicating with others for a specific purpose or transaction”
Book clubs, simply put, are groups that discuss and dissect a piece of literature. It aims to bring about conversations from a selected texts and even point out some factors or theories amongst the said group. It also fosters a sense of belonging due to the shared experience that a story can bring. It can even branch out in writing fan fiction and stimulates the imagination.
With a book club, a reader, especially a burgeoning one, may delight in the fact that one is not alone in reading; that there is a bigger community that shares the interest. Unlike arduous book reports in school, the free expression of an idea or theory in the book, especially in a verbal discussion, can lead to a successful conversing of questions. This is where the material is applied. The ever so reliable WH-questions are also given a more flexible and dynamic exchange between a teacher and student.
The first step in improving the scores in reading comprehension begins with fostering a love for reading. My love for reading wasn’t entirely fostered at school – it even at times hindered it – but rather began in the home. My father would read to me every night and sometimes we would discuss the text that was read. I remember reading Bob Ong’s Alamat ng Gubat with him and dissecting the themes of the Filipino culture that Bob Ong intended to bring about. Also, in developing a love for reading, let people read what they want, as adverse to considering only classics; as I’ve pointed out in a previous article.
Finally, book clubs should start in schools and local public libraries. This is where the youth, and even older readers, can find themselves in a safe and convenient space to read and discuss. Teachers and librarians should also be open to the interplay of ideas and help individuals foster a deeper understanding in books and literature. – Rappler.com
Gillian Reyes is a registered librarian who works at the University of the Philippines Diliman. He often writes stories for children, and hopes to build a library for kids someday.