June 2007
Literature and Literacy

Pages from the past

[photo by Jaileen Jimeno]

LIKE ALL other transactions involving money, buying books is governed by the rule caveat emptor — let the buyer beware. In the case of children’s books, the buyer is usually one of the parents. The more “book-wise” parent, of course, is often the one who also devoured a lot of books as a child.

But since that species seems to be getting rarer these days, we did an informal survey to help the literary-challenged among today’s parents choose books for their children. We asked several people what their favorite book was when they were young, and their answers were as varied as their ages. All their replies, however, showed how the books they read and loved as kids helped shape their values.

A 40-something mother of two chose Nene at Benito for the simple reason that the characters of the book “were very nice to the snail” they found, while a journalist down south selected The Frog Prince, which he read when he was five, because it taught him not to look down on people and judge them based on their appearance. In choosing A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, a young researcher for a TV network cited a similar reason, although she put the lesson as “never to lose faith and to be kind.”

A sales executive, meanwhile, picked The Long-Haired Maiden by Ting Yu Chen because it taught her the virtues of sacrifice and uprightness. A former journalist who is now a PR practitioner said The Hardy Boys series was his favorite because it taught him the value of perseverance, meticulous planning, and sense of adventure. And a mid-level manager in a TV station cited Cinderella because it taught her that “Ang buhay ay weather-weather lang (Life can change as fast the weather).”

There was also an audio-video editor who chose The Little Prince because it told him to “never outgrow the sense of awe, wonder and imagination” he had as a child. A researcher for a government office chose the same book, but she says what it taught her was, “Sometimes, the adults do not really know everything.”